Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Five ways to offer ea on the mauna


Every morning I run a mile in either direction from my pu’uhonua 

What starts as a familiar exercise in physical discipline 

Quickly becomes an experiment in my own mental fortitude 

How far can I stay from this piko of mine 

Before I am forced to turn around to catch my breath 

And whatever else I have inadvertently left behind


My skin hasn’t been kissed by the sea in nearly three weeks 

Where there were once gills 

All I have are scabs 

Now I catch as much pa’akai on my tongue as I can 

Because I know 

This may not be what I was once accustomed 

By it is more my home 

Than any other I have ever known 


Wahine standing, 


and sleeping by my side

Three distinct rhythms of breath

Three perfectly original laughs  

Three examples of what it means to root yourself deep in this struggle 

To be prepared for the years ahead 

Three kūkulu showing me how to stand 


Times I’ve had to divert my eyes from hers

Just this morning 

To try to keep myself contained 


Tonight I will look up to ho’ohōkūkalani 

And realize that there is nothing caught within my site that wasn’t shared by my kūpuna 

Tonight I will find myself caught in the ‘upena of the Milky Way

I will give her my breath 

And in exchange 

She will give me back thousands of years worth of questions 

Tonight I will write poems in the language of my kūpuna 

In the language of this mauna 

In the language I should have spoken to her all along 

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Follow the women

For Hāwane, Mehana and Malia

Who take you back to your mountain 

Who show you how 

To hold your breath 

As you trace her ridges 

Follow those women 

Who’s scales don’t cut at your soft skin

Who can see the way 

You never shed

Just carry 

Follow the women 

Who return you to the summit

In your joy 

In your fear 

In your every body 

Monday, July 29, 2019

Legacy, Revised

The oldest memory i can call upon
is the fast burning of nylon and polyester
if i think long enough
sit still enough
i can still see those stars begging to be freed from the fire of their bars
i was three
barely old enough to call upon the gods in my name
and yet
was marching attentively in the name of so many others

My father has soft knuckles 
a slight limp
and calluses on the tips of his fingers
he is not versed in the language of carpentry
but can build you a song with the flood of revolution bursting from his bones
he is made of language and melody
born of moʻolelo and promise
he is the honesty of scripture we are all trying to chase

The first time i heard the word sovereignty 
i shouted it at the top of my lungs
that all we needed were a few more voices
a little more volume
just a little more time


In the last 10 years i have watched
some of our most treasured leaders either die 
or lose themselves in their own minds
most of them
i am sure
are fighting for their memories 
the way we remember them fighting for this ʻāina


I’m not sure why 
i ever thought we'd stop dying 


My father tells students that he believes in justice
in literature
and truth
i know my father believes in something else too
because we were born of the same twine
the kind that finds it hard not to have faith in the goodness of others
i think a part of him 
will sit with a part of me
waiting for someone else
anyone, really 
to understand


Some days, 
i’m not sure if the academic in me
still believes in sovereignty 
some mornings i am awaken by my own cynicism
terrified of what i have become
terrified of what my father would think of me
i wonder if he would regret any part of his loving and raising me

And then I wake on a mauna 

In the piko of a pu’uhonua that has demonstrated ea in every way that I could ever imagine 

And I am left with the overwhelming need 

To never leave 

This place of refuge 

If there is ever a day when 
the child in me
finally forgets the stench of melting nylon 
the burn of fire on skin
and the salt of shame under
what can be said of my father and the gods i carry in the tongue of my name
what can be said of Papa

every woman whose power is locked in a language frozen by colonization
what can be say of this body
of every single memory therein 


I try not to think too hard these days 
about the things i believe
try to let ocean inside of me
stay settled every once and while
try not to worry my own conscious into combustion 
but i know there are questions 
i cant dare to answer alone
cant dare to decipher without uncovering 
a little more of the shame i have tried so hard to forget

Every line of this poem
is something i've tried to hide
the way they fall out of me now
doesn’t seem right

Sunday, July 28, 2019

This place will keep you honest

Between the freezing mist 

And blistering sun 

There is little room for 

The white lies we tell ourselves in the city 

About what we think we need

Ask the mauna what is absolutely necessary for your survival 

And she will not leave you any room for misunderstand 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Tell me how to fill this quiet

 Tell me how to fill this quiet 

This waiting 

This time expanding 

Seconds, turned minutes, turned hours 

How strange this discipline 

That has us anxiously waiting for the violence 

Coming for our bodies 

Has us counting the days 

Since the last assault 

Has us hoping 

Today is the day we will stand again 

How compelling this aloha

For a mauna 

That was so shortly ago 

A stranger 

So recently unfamiliar 

And now 

With each waking I trace her spine

   into my morning horizon like a lover 

And because of her 

I wonder 

What kind of loneliness will arrive in my departure

What of me is being so firmly planted here that will have to be left behind 

That will no longer be mine to keep 

How much of this fullness and knowing 

Will turn to cavern 

Will turn to question 

Will turn me inside out 

Longing for this pilina again 

What violence waits for me 

Caught in the noise of civilization 

Praying for when I can come back 

To her 

This place 

And all the aloha 

I never knew I needed 

But now can’t seem to live without 

Friday, July 26, 2019

To Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio

on the day you learned you whole name

when your lips were sticky with wet lihingmui and promise

do you remember the sparkle in your fathers eyes

when you could repeat he favorite 9 syllable song

i wish i could give you that sight back

on the mornings you feel empty

and not enough


when jamaica is insecurity overflowing from the body

i wish i could remind you of your center

your middle



the chant sung to the heavens

how your father plucked that name from his na'au between 'ōlelo classes and embodied memory

how he and your mother

imagined you

a song to sing into a new day

that would reach into the heavens but always land back on solid ground


‘Ae. Jamaica is the woman on stage

but you are her voice

her pen

her poem

Jamaica is the reason they come

but you are the reason they stay

you are the kuleana behind all the promise

all the misdirection


I want to show you how beautifully that light of you shines through

And even in your darkest moments

That your malu is a gift too


I know sometimes you feel like the worlds most successful fraud

like every ounce of koko in you is a betrayal to your tongue

i know sometimes you do not know where you're left after splitting hairs between legacy and desire

but there is a reason your brother is the gift, your sister is the memory

you are the voice caught between them

you are the reason the world will hear the story

I know this is not a gift as much as it is a burden 

But listen 

You are never alone 

Remember always the morning you sat beside the ahu at pu’uhuluhulu and called each kūpuna one by one as they sat beside you 

Or the morning you pulled the whole sun from the horizon with just your voice 

Or the morning you calmed the sea with just your breath

Or the time

You stoped a whole telescope with just your trembling body standing with your lāhui

These are the feats of memory that will always make you remarkable 

But remember they are also just one piece of your story

Mai Poina 

But always 

You you are all of this and Heolimeleikalani 

And all that song will always call upon 

“I am born again in the a’a”

Thursday, July 25, 2019

This morning


This morning I have no poems 

No words of wisdom

No metaphor to stretch across your sky 

my blood has no rhyme of rhythm to cradle your pu’uwai 

This morning 

All I have is the magic of a mauna 

Caught in the sight of the sun 

As we are teased by the treachery of time 

This morning

All i have is this wait


Minutes stretching across the hardening curve of my spine 

All my Words caught in the cracks of my breath

hands curling into their own heat

I have nothing here to hold you with 

And you


As constant as the summit 

With all your magic

Always Rising beside me

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

For all the aunties, but especially for Mary Maxine Lani Kahaulelio


Aunty says
She climbed a 90 foot cliff in the dark
Traced the scars of a long forgotten waterfall
Cried as she felt the green disappearing under her fingertips And i learn
That aloha is courage steeped in mourning

Aunty says
This arrest bond is the most important paper I own She holds it out like a certificate of her lineage
And I learn
To be born kanaka means to take pride in the fight Means to understand the polity of our bodies

Aunty says malama kou kino
Says don’t take no fucking shit from nobody
Not even our own men
And I learn that there are so many violences that will come for me Too many to count
Too many to turn to metaphor
Too violating to write into this poem

Aunty says she sees hope in me And I watch her overflow
Says she dreamed of this day And I learn

That genealogy is a promise to take your place amongst you’re greatest hero’s in this mo’olelo

Aunty says I love you
And I stand in her shadow, expanding
And every fear in me evaporates
Every doubt casts itself aside
Every whisper that does me no service is carried away And I become
Everything she dreamed I could be

I become an aunty too
A mauna

My mo’opuna will stand in the malu of

Monday, July 22, 2019

Ask me about the Mauna


Ask me about the mauna ⠀⠀⠀
And I will tell you about thirty kānaka huddled shivering in an empty parking lot ⠀⠀⠀ 
Praying ⠀⠀⠀
The lāhui would answer the call ⠀⠀⠀

I will tell you about two nights ⠀⠀⠀
Cot sleeping ⠀⠀⠀
Directly under a sky scattered in stars ⠀⠀⠀
In air so clear ⠀⠀⠀
Every inhale is medicine⠀⠀⠀
How every morning ⠀⠀⠀
I woke to a lāhui growing ⠀⠀⠀
As if we were watching Maui fish us ⠀⠀⠀
One by one ⠀⠀⠀
From the sea ⠀⠀⠀
Ask me about the mauna ⠀⠀⠀
And I will tell you ⠀⠀⠀
How on the third morning I watched ⠀⠀⠀
As 30 became 100⠀⠀⠀
then 100 became 1000 ⠀⠀⠀
then 1000 became us all⠀⠀⠀
Each and every one of our Akua standing beside us ⠀⠀⠀
Ask me about the mauna ⠀⠀⠀
And I will tell you the mo’olelo of eight⠀⠀⠀
Kanaka chained to a cattle grate ⠀⠀⠀
And the kōkua that sat beside us ⠀⠀⠀
How we were never alone in the malu of our mauna ⠀⠀⠀
How no one is every alone in the malu of our mauna ⠀⠀⠀
Ask me ⠀⠀⠀
And I will tell you about the hands I held ⠀⠀⠀
Through blistering cold ⠀⠀⠀
And extreme heat ⠀⠀⠀⠀
How I learned love ⠀⠀⠀
From the subtle tilt of her temple pressed against mine ⠀⠀⠀
Or by the solemn promise of her eyes ⠀⠀⠀
How the evening before i braided prayers into her hair hoping they would hold

Ask me ⠀⠀⠀

And I will recount their names ⠀⠀⠀
All 361 kūpuna⠀⠀⠀
One after the other who showed us mo’opuna how to stand ⠀⠀⠀
How they stunned and activated a lāhui with their sacrifice ⠀⠀⠀
How I wept ⠀⠀⠀
And wept ⠀⠀⠀
And wept ⠀⠀⠀
As I quietly held their names in my chest⠀⠀⠀
Ask me ⠀⠀⠀
And I will sing the song of our mana wahine ⠀⠀⠀
All 100 of us ⠀⠀⠀
Linked arms and unafraid ⠀⠀⠀
Who stood in the face of the promise ⠀⠀⠀
Of sound cannons and mace ⠀⠀⠀
Ask me ⠀⠀⠀
And I will tell you ⠀⠀⠀
How this body has been changed ⠀⠀⠀
How home takes on a new meaning these days ⠀⠀⠀
How family shows up at exactly the right time and place ⠀⠀⠀
And how silence is a clarity that cannot be bought ⠀⠀⠀
⠀ ⠀⠀⠀
And I will say ⠀⠀⠀
I have been transformed here ⠀⠀⠀
But won’t have the words to quite explain ⠀⠀⠀
I will say : ⠀⠀
I am not quite sure who exactly I’ll be when this ends ⠀⠀⠀
But at the very least ⠀⠀⠀
I’ll know⠀⠀⠀
This ‘āina⠀⠀⠀
Did every thing it could to feed me ⠀⠀⠀
And that will be enough to keep me standing⠀⠀
Until the very last aloha ‘Āina

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Frontline Pilina in the Malu of the Mauna


It’s Wednesday
And I find myself standing
In the shadow of a mauna that loves me like islands emerging from the sea Like a sky scattering herself in stars
Like a lāhui kanaka growing

I’m standing in the malu of a movement
That’s captured a generations heart and attention I find myself
My body
A kīpuka expanding
Into Pele’s pāhoehoe grip

holding holding

my quiet
And in my silence I hear her wailing

It’s Wednesday and I find myself Without searching
Arms linked with a line of women I barely know

But was destined to love
A line of women stretching back for thousands of generations
Pō, turned light, turned pūko’a turned slime turned gods in a time of mere men

Who more fierce then these bodies of islands These bodies of women
These moku
turned ‘āina
Spilling into our sea of islands

These hands stretched out Feeding a generation Accustomed to starvation

It’s Wednesday and I am holding her arms Like I am holding this mo’olelo
Strong but tender enough to let both breathe Deep

I am praying to be a wahine worthy of this moment Worthy of these hands
Holding me
right back

And then Aunty tells me
We are the generation they always dreamed of
So it’s Wednesday and now I am weeping

And every kūpuna that ever fought, ever cried, ever died so that we would know for sure how to stand
Is singing through me
And somehow

Somehow i am still standing Arms linked in a line of women Holding me
And all I have to offer them

Is this story
That is incomplete

Friday, July 19, 2019

10 ways I have been loved this ʻanahulu


Every morning Līlīnoe sends her simmering skin to me 

And as she arrives 

I am reminded of the blessing of wai 


loads of laundry 



And delivered 


“Do you need a hot shower” 

Offers from strangers

For comfort and warmth 


“Have you eaten” 

“Are you drinking enough water”

The most romantic question I have ever been asked 


Her hands 



And forehead 

All the ways we curl into each other’s orbit 


The simplicity of our effortless three part harmony 

Mele Hawai’i 


And all the songs that comfort the soul 


Dozens of Kapu aloha kia’i 

Walking the pu’uhonua 

24 hours a day 

To keep us safe 

Smiles constantly unfolding from the corners of their face 



Ho’ohōkūkalani’s dance across the evening sky 


every sunrise and sunset 

In the malu of a mountain

That loves me to my Piko 

Uncle opening every morning in ceremony 

E ala e 

With the expanding tenor of his voice 

We are readied 

Thursday, July 11, 2019

See you on the Mauna

 What makes something sacred? ⠀

Is Mauna Kea sacred because she is the highest point in nā kai ‘ewalu and the broader pacific?⠀


Is Mauna Kea sacred because of its connection to the genealogy of our people and our Akua Wākea? ⠀

‘Ae. ⠀

Is Mauna Kea sacred because of our pilina to her. Because of the unmeasurable ways she has protected us, fed us, loved us?⠀


Is Mauna Kea sacred because she represents our ea, our sovereignty, our right and ability to advocate for ourselves and our ‘āina?⠀

‘Ae. ‘Ae. ‘Ae. ‘Ae. ⠀

Mauna Kea is sacred for all of these reasons and more. But today, this week, this month, this year Mauna Kea is sacred because we gather to protect her. Because we consecrate her in our resistance to American force, occupation and colonialism. Mauna Kea is sacred because we show up. She is sacred because we band together as our kūpuna always have. Mauna Kea is sacred because my kūpuna stood with yours and today I stand with you. And because of the many ways we continue to stand, continue to Kupa’a I ke aloha ‘Āina... we make Mauna Kea sacred again and she us. ⠀

I am proud to stand against the thirty meter telescope because Manono stood against the fall of the ‘Aikapu, because Pi’ilani stood against the provisional government, because Daisy Keali’iai’awa’awa stood against the annexation, because aunty Loretta Ritte stood against the bombing of Kaho’olawe, because Haunani-Kay Trask stood and said, “we are not American”. ⠀

I stand because our children will live in this ‘āina, will be fed by this aina, will aloha this ‘āina and will stand, like we did. I stand because I am privileged enough to know that standing is what Hawaiians do. Standing is what Hawaiians do. Standing is what Hawaiians do. Until the very last aloha aina. ⠀

See you on the mauna. ⠀