Showing posts from June, 2015

Poems that I Want In My Brain

He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven HAD I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.  --W B Yeats
A Little ToothThomas Lux, 1946 Your baby grows a tooth, then two, and four, and five, then she wants some meat directly from the bone. It’s all over: she’ll learn some words, she’ll fall in love with cretins, dolts, a sweet talker on his way to jail. And you, your wife, get old, flyblown, and rue nothing. You did, you loved, your feet are sore. It’s dusk. Your daughter’s tall.Egg By C.G. Hanzlicek I’m scrambling an egg for my daughter. “Why are you always whistling?” she asks. “Because I’m happy.” And it’s true, Though it stuns me to say it aloud; There was a time when I wouldn’t Have seen it as my future. It’s …

Translation Problems

The other day I was talking to someone, a transplant from the mainland, who works here as a facilitator-- she was telling me about her work in different organizations, and how entrenched people can be in their feelings about ideas, and how tricky it can be to untangle some of those interpersonal knots. I mentioned that with school we've had facilitators come in to lay western-style groundrules and accomplish western-style goals, and that we've also had Hawaiian ho'oponopono. She was curious about it-- how does it work? What is it like?

I told her about my experience, how it went for hours and hours, starting immediately after school and carrying on until nearly midnight, what the alaka'i' did-- his role seemed similar to the mediator's role-- providing space for everyone to say their part, to be heard.  In my limited experience, it didn't seem that there were set scripts to follow, although every person was expected to speak, and everyone, as we went around…


This year has been a bumper year for summer fruits: the mangoes went wild last month-- we were spoiled for the sweet ripe juicy fruits, nectar on our mouths and running from hands to elbows, leaning over the porch railings to enjoy them cubed and inverted, like this:
And now it's the lychee. 
We have two giant trees who, in nearly five years at this house, have never given us more than a handful of lychee, but for whatever reason this year are bedecked like bacchus, long red clumps of the fruit hanging like bangles all over the trees.
We started picking them the second they had any meat on them-- they were still mostly green and very tart and juicy. Now they've matured into fat red globes, brimming with juice as soon as you peel away a bit of the hard bumpy skin. 
From across the lawn they all look perfect: cascades of red rubies like dangling earrings. I drag cloth grocery bags and my extendable fruit picker over.
A little closer and you can see where wild parakeets and doves…

Lambda Aloha Tiny Gay Dance Party

I got home at midnight last night but went straight to bed so this morning I still have residual fire-engine red lipstick, a waxy paper "bud light" arm band, a wrist stamp, and several tiny french braids above one ear for what the internet assures me is an "edgy faux side shave."

Heh, edgy. Not really the first descriptor I'd pick for myself.

But it's mildly gratifying to wake up with these little relics of A Night Out.

This is a tiny, sleepy island. Restaurants shut down at 9.  Nights Out are few and far between.
And I am a person who would really, truly, whole-heartedly prefer to stay home and listen to BBC Radio Drama, with Clive Merrison as Sherlock Holmes. (No really, they're great.) So usually I'd pass the chance to Go Out because it's not really what feeds my soul, ya know?

But my friend Yuki asked me, so gently, so politely, so ready to be disappointed. And look at this earnest little promotional website: So …


It was a hot day-- heat swimming up from the pavements, everyone dreaming of lemonade. After school, I drove my girls up to the river to jump in and cool down. The beaches would be warmer, balmy pacific lagoons with still-waters and lethargic tropical fish. But we needed something bracing-- something reminiscent of glacial Rocky Mountain streams.

The river up the road is easy-- a short drive (through the river itself) to a pitted and pocked parking area. Then a short walk between colorful and peeling rainbow eucalyptus trees to a steep stream bank. There are a few picnic benches and pavilions-- overflowing rubbish bins and redolence of skunky Pakalolo-- and on weekends families come with pavilions and tents and rock-blockers and barbecues and coolers and generators-- but today the place was empty.

We skid down the mud-root-mud gulch onto the little rocky "beach"-- just a few dozen feet of flat ground on the bank of the river. Over the years, people have carved and terraced t…

Aha Awa

I've lived in Hawaii for nearly nine years, but I still am a malihini-- a newcomer. The more I learn, the more I feel like a waterbug, barely skittering across the surface of cultural waters. This week, partaking of awa as part of ka hoomakaukau i na pukana-- preparing our graduates-- I was reminded of how shallow my knowledge really is.

I've only participated in three Aha Awa-- or Awa ceremonies-- one every year for my students' graduations. The first year I understood maybe one in three words in Hawaiian, and the next year three of four-- this year was the first that I understood everything that was said, which freed me up to be puzzled by the bigger questions.

This is what happened.

We met at noon. It was scorching. The Alakai-- the charismatic Kumu Kaina, who left the school last year to farm full time, set up under a tarp-tent ready for graduation the next day. He and his kokua--- or assistant-- Anakala Keaka, Kumu Kanani's partner, spread out the tools for the ce…

Lei ia keia Makahiki-- The Year Has Circled Around Again

So my little school has lots of issues. There's always heartbreaking squabbles between teachers and admin, families buffeted by addiction and poverty and disease, accusations ricocheting about sketchy accounting or poor planning, the terrible question of school purpose and Hawaiian cultural self-definition. This year has felt particularly pointed-- like I mentioned in my last post, I began to hope that there was a more loving, kind and inclusive life possible at the school. Well, hope makes disappointments more painful, and with higher highs, this year's lows have been pretty grim.

On top of structural irksomeness, teaching is a tricky and stressful job. My most creative, inclusive and well-prepared lesson might not get through to a single student, and I often feel terribly unprepared for helping the students with their challenges-- learning disabilities or destructive family cultures that perpetuate learned helplessness rather than cultural empowerment. Students' lack of …