Cleaning the Study

If I stare at the pair of gecko eggs tucked into the luggage tag that hung from a cabinet pull in my study if I stare long enough they’ll hatch perhaps I’ll even think of something to say something other than bon voyage or safe travels but I confess earlier I pictured tossing them into the fishpond to see if the bright koi of morning would reach up for these little pearls what a journey that would be for the little twins as fond as geckos as I most certainly am not for all their defecations from great heights all through the house I do admire their tenacity and when it comes to these eggs their ingenious nesting places imagine if you will the pregnant creature secreting herself behind the little plastic window where the name tag is inserted to lay between the layers—there were two name bearing rectangles there after all—mine and my deceased wife’s inserted more than three years ago because that’s how long it’s been—since she went anywhere or in a way everywhere—and then disgorged if that doesn’t sound too gross a way of saying it how does a gecko give birth quietly furtively defying gravity deftly neatly turning a luggage tag with rather nice Hawaiian or tropical design of monstera leaf on red background into a birth site two small packages of life if I allow it I can feel the power and responsibility gaining the upper hand as I write as I stare again knowing if I stare long enough these eggs will break open and new life will emerge blinking into a world without boundaries a world where even the rules are bare and pocketless quite bereft of any sort of baggage


I reach into the light 

to turn it off for one more hour 

but as it blooms bright

again and again I realize 

I could’ve had more 

but it’s not like I’ll remember 

what hasn’t even been said 

even now in the dark words

squeeze life out of the page 

there’s a flickering of faces and flowers 

fires burning up the mountain slopes 

chanting above the clouds outside 

where would I be without outside 

the wind racing through familiar branches 

while the roots hold tight 

it’s a long  fierce breath 

that runs ahead of the sun 

my ears play tricks these days

it might be rain I might reach

into that light once more 

set my feet on the floor 

take a breath before I move 

down the soft dark hall 

to stand under the sky

where I can feel the embrace

of the well-traveled air

and hang this poem up to dry


Right about now the whitecaps break free
become a flock of egrets nothing purposeful
flashing and soaring how can I not feel joy
ecstasy jubilation at the sight they say
it’s too far away to be of consequence
from up here on the casuarina cook pine
covered slope looking over the treetops
down to sunlight caught up in the nets
of the shoreline we can’t see and out there
the horizon so high it’s hard to believe
this world’s not inside out in more ways
than one but it’s okay this moment here
they come again another uprush of confetti
first east then west like I said there’s no mind
making itself up this could be our worst fear
looking out for the meaning of life
and seeing the waves transformed
into big-winged beak-thrusting
cattle egrets at the end of their work day
some people hate these birds because
they’re interrupting the cattle shit cycle
after all they’re newcomers arrived in ’73
not native not indigenous invasive
I can hear the muttering right here
between by one bad ear and my shoulder
but I don’t care I’m with these pau hana
messengers I look up and see sheer beauty
it’s out of this world no I take that back
it is this world lifting soaring flickering flashing
the ultimate surrender unfold my heart
go free my salt tears all the cautionary tales
of melting wax or the grasping tide
fall away in this moment



Tonight the shadow of Mila’s strings impressed
Against the velvet insides of his open guitar case
Like a door ajar as if to say I’ve just arrived
But I’m ready to leave the lid wide receiving
That hundred dollar bill with a request for a song
Written in ink so bold at least that’s the idea
Somehow the singer’s ice breaking conversation
Always fresh like the repertoire Leonard Cohen’s
Hallelujah dropped into a sea of slack key medley
Falsetto for once misnamed because the high notes
Don’t lie most of us come here saying nothing
Keeping our melodies to ourselves hiding inside
The amplification so we let him carry the tune
We don’t even understand the words most of the time
What is this parallel world I keep asking myself
This place I find myself where people are just
Trying to get by he looks out and sees us
With our loss there on our sleeves our found
Here in our eyes if we disappeared he’d still
Keep playing what’s that saying just that
He’s brought it too this possibility this chance
That something between us will pick up
Another chord a vibration that’ll keep moving
Right on up the hill through the night
Into the dark under the starry sky
I turn into the place called home and wonder
Is the soul inside or out am I the impression
Left when the lid is closed tight pressed
Down against my strings right now
I’m feeling small my voice is so far
Inside I can hardly hear it so far
I’m beginning to wonder if I understand
What’s going on this coming together
This coming apart don’t tell me music
Is magical and the singer’s the messenger
This is the crazy thing this coming down
To earth half believing it’s not a dream
What’s it going to take to get ahold of
This connection business tonight it rained
And we got closer closed those distances
We call ourselves hey it was a taste
In the end we paid our bills mine yours
Left our respective tips there on the wet
Tables and then it cleared we look up
See planets we can name galaxies
We can’t the crazy thing this looking up
All those lines we didn’t understand
Hawaiian or English it doesn’t matter
Inside all language there’s another language
So let’s just say we took our cells to the gig
And the songs pressed themselves against our velvet minds



Hurricanes ride past
each casts a calm eye
from the center of its wildness
but we’ll never get used to it
complacency earns a different sort of look
I’ve given that look said nothing
seen so many alerts
not that I don’t care
not that I’m unaware
if anything prepared as ever I can be
one thing I’ve learned you can rush to the scene
but it doesn’t do any good
if anything the truth gets hung up waiting
you’re left musing on local architecture
smiling fantasizing how things are gonna go
I won’t say you’re on your own no matter what
but that’s close

tonight there’s a heavy bass
walking through the house
like a determined man
with no shadows and the lamps blazing
I can hardly understand the lyrics
a woman’s voice sings
it’s my life
and I’ll do what I like
the snare drum gives me a chill

I’ve never owned a horse and
I’m no white knight
I’m done rescuing damsels
I was never cut out for it
my place at the round table
was all a game in the garden of my childhood
chivalry just gets me in trouble
dragons are my friends
and anyway the princess
is always a princess
whose alerts keep coming across my screen
excuse me while I flick one more away
so I can keep an eye on the storm’s path

everybody sees an island
in the wide wide sea
but everybody is an island
fire and ice
some good days
and some make you look up and frown
complacency doesn’t sit well with me
but I know when there’s nothing more I can do
outside that radius of possibilities
out there beyond my reach

I might as well say a prayer
before I turn out the lights
turn into the cover of night
where the noise of the world
is supposed to fall away
maybe the windows will shudder
and the trees will break like an ocean shore
and the wind will play the house like an aeolian harp
we’re waiting here
our openings offer themselves up to the wind
it’s a long night
this letting go

everything’s on hold
the theme here is release
no one said it would be easy
so don’t mind me while I rage against that distant light
the one I left on
left burning on two continents
I’ll get over it I swear but forgive me
if these storms give me free rein
to charge right up to the disappearing moon
and when I set foot there
look down on this moment
the other side of time lapsing clouds
at the places where words failed me
and all songs sounded mixed up and familiar
you know the problem is
I can’t say what I mean
the storms come in
one after another
Hector Lane Miriam Norman
a flight of orphans
nobody’s children
all virgin births all come of age in a hurry
all we can do is nod to their could
would might at such a speed
at such an hour no wonder
I’m jealous of their uncluttered power

Going to the Market for Blueberries

Blueberry run a good example of what’s mundane
elevated would you have to look very hard to see
the mystical dimension can it be far perhaps
that search for answers perhaps present moments
concentrated in small deep blue berries born
at high altitude in unlikely proximity to the equator
orb overlaid upon orb what we see as quantifying
the circumference of the circle the area of the sphere
is after all small pictures of the whole surely
that’s mystical in itself yesterday I heard it said
if we look for a sense that we don’t belong we see it
everywhere what is that? this seeing that shapes us
this walking that vibrates place transforming seeming
solidity and certainty into waves merely intensified
were they always there were they always here an ocean
of understanding not even waiting or feeling but being
as Noelle said just being so simple not simplistic
and so today a day when I drove away without my
hearing aids as if I’d heard too much of the pain
so much I was beginning to see the blood of children
running in the rain on a day like this the mundane
calls my name beckons I can’t hear what it’s saying
very well but I see waving feel the vibrations
of some deeper understanding getting through to me
without battery operated amplification I can hear
the voices of change this is how it’s been this is how
walls come down just when I realize I’ve been looking
down so long I look up and see the horizon is alive
with red hibiscus in their lush wall of green breath
leaves of breathing when I drove home over the mountain
I cried for those who reach for a gun before they reach
for their own pain or their children children are the fruit
the flower the leaf the breathing trembling of our own roots

Laʻaupau Moon

Moving towards that place in the ocean
Where the moon spills almost half its light
Seatbelt tight against my left shoulder
Over the washboard road till I can’t go
Any further the cliffs of Upolu held me up
Once before here on the edge where
Dreams trade places with everyday
Walking life where now I see if the moon
Can do it I can let it go too if I’m honest
I’ll tell you fear dances a merry dance
At the roots of my hair don’t ask me
What’s to be afraid of I’m just being
Honest I can only guess anyone can
Dance this dance it comes with mortality
I feel this gentle lift from the northeast
I’ll take gentle today I know how the wind
Can blow if she lets go no I’ll do the letting
Go right now out of the truck surf pushing
Hushing boomphing against the breaking
Limits of land sun at my back Maui
Mysterious above thick band of cloud
Deceptively linear from this distance
Less than 30 miles and we think straight
Lines are a fact at my age I’ve stopped
Believing in straight lines my daughter
Jemma tells me write about nothing
To write about because nothing’s
Happened because everything’s
Happened in the nothing inside
That nothing so I come to the edge
Looking for the light emptied out
Of last night’s moon my head’s
Spinning with full moons before
After new dark moons threaded
Through my calendar pages
It’s enough this nothing listening
To it I sense its power hear its
Hum coming from the ocean floor
But most of all feel its branches
Tendrils dendritic reach entwined
With mine no wonder fear dances
Beneath it hasn’t got a chance
While everything above’s embraced



Yesterday was a good day for all sorts of reasons. Then, to top it off, my hula brother Kalani and I got up and danced at the Bamboo restaurant that evening. Mila (what an amazing man!) played Waikaloa (the lighthouse on Maui, not the Hilton north of Kailua-Kona) and we made plenty people smile. Joan, the owner, called out Hana hou! and teased the roomful of diners now it was their turn. It was so much fun.

So this morning I was feeling pretty good about myself when I arrived at the Hawai‘I Wildlife Sanctuary to dance with my halau. Of course I talked up our Waikaloa moment the night before. Pretty soon after the keiki performed and the wahine danced Mokihana Lullaby, we three kane did what our halau fondly calls the chicken dance. It’s really called Lei Moaulahiwa, written by Kuana Torres. Maybe with our Waimea blue shirts on we had a little kalij going for us. Still, we had our puffed up burlap ruffle cummerbund that we wore when we won first place at the competition in September. Kumu Kaui only had the rehearsal music, not the mele by itself, so we had to dance the whole competition version, the ka‘i, the mele, and the ho‘i. That was fine till we got to the ho‘i. Brother Kealoha walked right off and disappeared behind a wall, leaving Kalani and me to figure out how things were supposed to go. I think we were so stunned at seeing our hula brother disappear like that, we couldn’t even fake it (well, speaking for myself). We danced this way and that way and then we heard ha‘ina! loud and clear coming from Michael our teacher, in the audience, so we pulled it together sort of, and bumbled through the rest (again, speaking for myself).

What I noticed right away when we joined Kealahoa was that he said nothing and acted as if nothing out of the ordinary happened. I looked at Kalani and saw his expression, a kind of half-smile. Acknowledgement and acceptance with one look. Immediately I heard those three words in my mind, Let It Go.

I went over to the wahine where they stood watching Michael and two younger wahine dancing Keali‘i Reichel’s No Luna exquisitely. I slid my iPhone out of my pocket and began videoing their dance, thinking, Wow, maybe I’ll finally get the hang of the second verse. It’s not that I’m striving for perfection, just that I want to perform the dances with heart and soul, to convey the meaning through our movements, and really, to blend in with other dancers so I’m not sticking out like a sore thumb.

Or a sore loser! The thing is that being left there in front of the audience with Kalani was kind of a gift. My hula brothers and sisters are always reminding me, if you make a mistake, keep going! We kept moving but I’m sure the expression on my face showed utter confusion and loss of direction. Did I say gift? Well, here you go! It’s all yours! Your lesson in humility for today! Yeah that. That is actually a truly valuable gift, for which I am grateful. But more than that, acknowledging and accepting that I’m still learning and there is so much room for growth. Just last week, I saw Kumu Keala Ching doing the most sublime ‘uwehe during his dancing of Hi‘ilawi. It was like he took that split second and opened it up to reveal a whole world with that movement.

I’m in such a hurry sometimes I forget there’s whole worlds inside our least movement, our slightest expression. If hula is teaching me anything, it’s that I am my body, I’m not just in it, I am it. I want to live like that. You see great dancers like Kumu Keala moving so gracefully through the world. I saw the same grace with my mentors Jonathan and Moira, who were immersed in theatre. These artists engage fully their lives; they embrace reality so warmly it begins to vibrate and you can see into other worlds.

Hula is life. Theatre is life. I love it. Can you hear that gentle cosmic laughter inside the Hawaiian word for humility, ha‘aha‘a? I can.