Last night the usual confusion around Hawaiian pronunciation and meaning
When the singer Mila sat across from us after his set quickly pinching tears
Away from his eyes while he explained his take on Queen Kapi’olani’s poem
Ka Ipo Lei Manu written for her husband David Kalakaua in the late 19th century
When the king was in San Francisco when the queen’s love poem became
A song of mourning it was not the iwa bird the black streamlined
Thief we call the frigate bird the one who glides in ahead of the storms nor
Was it iwi the bones the bones we felt chilled earlier when Mila sang falsetto
No it was the little i’iwi its yellow plumage telling us it was a young bird
In the rain on the mountain the queen thought there would be more and I
Cried again hearing him say it realizing I wasn’t finished either this morning
I’m still walking in the rain wishing I’d paid attention when but when
Is a moveable feast and I always hesitated hungry as I was this morning
Two iwa birds sailed out of the confusion over the windmills at Upolu
Soared between two arms of a storm feeling its way along Maui’s shores
And slopes and Kohala on our side of the channel where does the iwa
Bird stand still I wondered my runaway mind jealous of those hollow
Bones that streamlined form I got drenched by the storm’s embrace
Stripped off at my truck this is what stopping looks like an empty day
On the calendar a photograph of a butterfly on my wrist I’m remembering
Other times alone long ago moments when I stopped and boiled rice
Swam naked thought there would always be time I live in a place still
Grieving for the dead king what’s left of the i’iwi birds follow the uplands
Curving their beaks toward the nectar like yesterday’s right here there’s
No metaphor for stopping even a rock moves its molecules slo-mo
Allows itself to sink beneath the surface stopping’s a verb curled up
Under the hau tree healing itself minding its own unfinished business


The day the white-eyes come the little mejiro
Hop-flick their way branch to branch outside
Windows intent on bug catching with their needle
Beaks they sing on oblivious to my gaze
My wide-eyed hunger for moments like this
When beauty stands still and vibration holds
Its breath I’m holding mine too as I study first-
Hand distinct plumage and perfect Sumi-e
Circles ‘round each eye everything’s hungry
On this planet I’m eating seasonal appearances
Of little passerines and they’re eating little bugs
Eating little buds but there’s gut-ache
And heartburn ahead for all or one of us
Because there’s too many of us because there’s
Not enough and the precious akepa can’t keep up
And when we’re not looking the mejiro invade
Hawaiian forests the truth of the falling leaf
Spiraling to earth in a summer breeze
Is written in a language spoken when every
Living thing was still speaking to each other
Nothing fell off the cycle of life without a smile
Sadness didn’t tighten the lips or furrow the brow
Breathing in was breakfast and breathing out
Fed the world out of the forest a hawk soars
An i’o now we’re the ones outside the windows
Turning and turning necks at their limits
Eyes feasting on this morning’s cloudless
Sky and a roofline followed to the edge of blindness
Where three geckos inch towards each other
Sticking out their tongues tasting the sun


A heavy rain dunk the biscotti bite

through the next thought and the next

Tahitian ginger blossoms strewn

under their bush-become-tree reaching

over the quartzite jigsaw we named lanai

I find myself counting the white petals

eight all told in each there’s a number

shaken loose by the downpour but this

isn’t about one overdue gardening project

everywhere I look’s the same if ever there

was a sense of control it’s been shaken

loose too and all illusion of order with it

Monday last I cut back one night blooming

jasmine outside my bedroom and another

near the fire pit the Queen of the Night

reduced to knee height twice afterwards

seeing I’d made small wounds openings

where fear flushed through so fast I was ready

to accept responsibility for new empty space

ready to plant something less overpowering

a scent such as cinnamon gardenia ready

to turn my back on it give resilience a chance

allow the cut branches to flourish anew

can I keep this up this cutting and shaping

this risking this turning my back on emptiness

one thing about a downpour in the night

so heavy it pushed through leaks in the roof

I’d thought repaired it’s left the air

refreshed breathed into hesitation

it’s cool this relief with beauty in disarray