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

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