Saturday, June 19, 2021

Lilith meets Republicans on Haunani Road


We crossed paths on Haunani Road with the older couple (my age, if not Lilith's) we'd encountered several times before. The first time, on passing us (Lilith has important research duties by the side of the road), the man had said cryptically, "the dog is now following Republicans." So as we crossed paths today, I said, "Are these the Republicans?" She smiled, but he did not; they both answered in the affirmative. I said, "oh, gosh," in lieu of anything else. He said, "it's reality," as they disappeared behind us. The word "reality" turned my mind to mush, as if my mother in her dementia had told me--which she did--that I'd gone to Catholic school, when it was she who had done so, unhappily. It took me walking half-way up Kilauea to realize I should have turned and said, loudly and brightly, HAPPY JUNETEENTH!

Monday, June 14, 2021

10 Years On


14 June 2021

What to take out: vatic statements, extra words, memories between the memories that don’t belong. Parataxis is what was taken. My mother, ten years today. The rest of the page left blank, but for her dates. “After the Hyphen” too cryptic a title. The addition of that date denotes subtraction of person.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Bee's heads


11 June 2021

The graffiti on a whitish tarp screams at the owner of the large dog that attacked a homeless person’s small dog. I didn’t take the picture. Writing it down is another violation, or act of witness. They rhyme. Witness your internal organs, the yoga teacher says. Witness American violence, the Roshi tells us. A friend watched beheadings, to be witness. Another posts a bee’s head on Instagram, framed by sidewalk. Yet another the mural of a child bearing his arm with menace. To bear arms: bear = give birth to, or large mammal celebrated in Hilo coffee shop; arms: what we use to control our opposable thumbs. Thumbs and guns, by way of Susan Howe. I talk to a Chinese Susan about mental health activism. Names are arms to hold us inside our decades like artifacts. After an American woman hugged him, Thich Nat Hahn created a meditation of it. Like every form, it goes slowly. Lift it in your hands, like your heart. (Bryant shrinks from that, as he sees a heart that slobbers blood in his hand). It’s not an actual image, I tell him, though my yoga teacher has synesthesia; she smells what is not there (flower). The flower (here) punches my memory clock, though it's only a word. The 10 poems that will change your life are found, drenched, between hard covers on a fence in the Park. Bryant opens to page 80-something and finds “amoeba of ancestry” about a Galway Kinnell poem. Marthe had a story about jumping out a window to avoid Kinnell’s attention, amoebic in their oblivion to boundary (or bear). An Irishman in the woods is still Irish, no? Reaching up to the top of a fence, the girl fought off a bear too interested in her dogs. Punch a shark in the nose. The football coach’s 10 year old son told his father about a doctor's abuse; the coach punched him in the stomach. That was the beginning of the end, he says, a man in his 60s, suffering from abuse and a father’s violent neglect. We come here to avoid his triggers, and that takes us back to guns, as if we were rowing our boat in rounds and they turned to arms slung through the water of a northern lake, hunting our memories like ghost-beings. He’s seen one, and so has our son, his absent deceased first mother. I said, both your mothers are rooting for you. She and I are a team that lacks any common language except “son.” He was offered to me, but the gift was of two minds, precious cargo composed of sorrows. The iPhone witness earned a citation from the Pulitzer committee; she came armed with a phone. He came armed with leg and foot and no emotion we can locate in those blue eyes. Had a gun, but didn’t use it. Gun and moon offer eclipse, and sometimes the blood moon comes on like an allergic reaction. The daughter of the senator who blocks bills tried to charge more money than almost anyone has for Epipens. Only the rich can survive their shellfish, their peanuts, their bees and their beheadings.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Geographical determinism


For many years, our townhouse block in Kane`ohe had three Gary's in a row, all of them Yankees fans. Several years back, the one Gary and his wife, a postal carrier, moved out. Today, Lilith and I were walking around the loop in Volcano, going past the little gray cottage with red trim that I've always found appealing, when we spotted a woman gardening outside (the first time I've seen a person outside the cottage). We did a double-take and decided we knew each other. She said she'd been driving the other day and told her step-brother she was sure she knew me, but not from where. Thought maybe on her postal route in Manoa. No, she was Kathy, now divorced from middle Gary of the townhouse block. I remember she'd told me a story about a difficult genealogical discovery she'd made. We talked for a while and she showed me the inside of the cottage, every bit as charming as the outside. Then Lilith commenced to bark (I'd tied her to the post outside) and she and I left. The cottage is owned by a woman who was married to its architect; when I looked her up, I realized she had been a long-time Poet in the Schools. The cottage is practically across the street from Saijo's old place. Her neighbor up the street, the one I walk with sometimes, _was_ on her Manoa route back in the day.

Monday, June 7, 2021


7 June 2021: 8:13 a.m.

I google for the day, acquire the hour and minutes of this departure. Two white men in Volcano, always together, head to the Hilo Safeway, never wearing shoes unless the bus driver tells them to. She likes rules. I used to ask where shoes were made, passing on those from Cambodian factories; it was luxury, this turning away from a particular vehicle of consumption.

The newly scraped lot on Wright Road is another version of consumption. The absent ohi`a, invasive ginger gone to the blade of the largest bulldozer I’ve ever seen. It sits near the back of the lot, as if shy of my iPhone camera, its blade the dullest of mirrors. Never nothing unless we make it so, or declare land as absence. Theresa asks about the mystery building in the vacant lot next to Saijo’s old place. It’s a white chimney, remnant of a house whose foundations sit nearby, blue plastic barrel providing the color contrast to a long winter’s green. A singer’s green and gruen, gruen and green.

The scraped lot is fenced by fractured trees; large rocks ribbon toward Wright Road, so the bulldozer can't sink in earth. The ohi`a is the first tree to grow on fresh lava fields, punctuating their black channels with red lehua blossoms. Lava is not nothing, braids itself down slope, stopping to sculpt an obstinate tree, if the sculptor begins from a living object, then casts rock around it. The lot has neither tree nor sculpture on it: is tabula rasa in reverse. The abundance of tearing abundance down, capital’s answer to the rain forest.

A new house sits behind chain link fence, its driveway a concrete road. Around the house the blankness of the bulldozer’s eloquence. Beside the fence one day I saw a man putting in small plants to replace the absent forest. Yesterday, I noticed they were brown. In front of one pallid seedling a sign: No Trespassing.

To be inside silence is luxury, to hear the birds make of silence a soundscape, to attend to drops of rain on the metal roof. A loud mechanical noise enters, suggesting that we “fuck our feelings,” like tree huggers. And now it’s gone again. A line of moss at the roof line hangs down, and water drops, streams, then again drops to the ground. A bad pun about coffee on my twitter feed, thanks to a zen prose poet, calls ground into question. They have ground the ground into bits, but its taste is sour mud. Avoid PTSD by pushing your feet into ground, breathe loam.

8:40: sun streams through the tree ferns. A good eye finds reflections on props, stakes, human clutter on the forest floor. Why is our good eye singular and not bifocal? We look at screens now before we take our photos, not with one eye but with both. The fascination of Polaroid is its hesitation before printing. What was instant now takes time to develop on a small paper square. History runs backwards as method of conveyance: vinyl record, manual typewriter, shutter click. Sound bears image. We contrive our mistakes via app. Random chance belongs to the outdated machine.

I will read my book backwards. It gains weight as it goes until, near the end, it weighs on my sinuses like a headache in a chamber too small for it. A judge says AK-47s are like Swiss Army Knives, so handy. You can carve your pre-sculpted body a thousand ways with it, can make organs explode into bits. It’s like whittling; you can sing as you do it, before running back to the car that’s found later in a canal, taking up space. We take both time and space, if not at the same time, and the bulldozer takes the space of a grove of ohi`a trees. In the absence of bulldozer, we find real estate. You can plant your garden later.


Monday, May 31, 2021

That Verb Again


What is a poem when it’s torn away from its date, like two graduation balloons I watched slowly ascend the Ko`olau? Would we rather guess, as if time were itself an allusion (to illusion). After visiting Kwan Yin at the museum, I ran into my mother, or at least my mother’s clothes, her shoes, her skinny legs. She would not have been my mother then, but as she fails to age with us, she becomes herself more clearly. The wool checked brown and white skirt, the long-sleeved cream blouse, the crossed legs. Everything a bit spiky: feet, breasts, nose, the pen she holds to never finish her short-hand dictation. She sits in the gallery corner, so specific, so unmoored. I kept returning to her, told a guard she was my mother. A friend on Instagram noted she was her childhood piano teacher. The specific is what renders us “universal.”Post-date that.

The date is a puka, no matter the text. Even if it’s dated, the times of day, the context of surrounding seconds (air temperature, wind speed, all it takes to fly) shorn away like post-pandemic hair. A hapu`u’s orange fern fuzz brings Trump to the rain forest. My phone will remind me when that was. If my iPhone tells me I have “new memories,” whose are they? Are they still my memories when they pop up as photos? Or do I recall only what I and my phone have taken? “Happy to donate what you took,” reads a sign at the museum. Give your memories for art. There’s a word inside the photograph, like DANGER, or O.

How we see is only angles. The little girl appeared, wrapped in a styrofoam cape. An angel. But she took it off before I could take the photograph in the room next to a row of shelved Buddhas, each wearing a tag around its torso. Not price, but place, but time, but marker of the Buddha’s lives before he was entered into storage.

The city fills up with storage units, hidden behind cream walls and orange signs. There you can still possess what you almost never see, like a shelf inside the chapel at the cemetery, or like memories that await their re-charging. If you plug your phone in each night, more memories will be available to you in the morning. The non-narrator in Joyce does not have name or character, is the one who sorts things into chapters. The non-narrator of your story owes much to Steve Jobs, who was adopted by a man who fiddled with machines in his garage.

Seek your origins so you can discard the muck between then and now. The start of it was clean, like ideology, but the so-called nuances are tar pits. Why do kids love dinosaurs, and not mastadons? What did the ice know to preserve the mastadon? Museum worlds are slow, like early retirement. No more roll to call, attendance to be taken.

That verb again: to take. Unrelated to token, except by concept, which is not blood but iCloud. Even less substantial than cloud, visible only in the information it spits out when called upon to do so. Use the analogy of food for thought, and cough up spitting and cramming and stomaching and no small amount of nausea. When “amount” is substituted for “number.” When “number” has little to do with the verb form chosen to hobble across a sleeping policeman.

They took aim and they fired. 68 mass shootings this month. One mother says her son was well-educated and did not deserve to be shot. I’m saddened by the allusion to his resume, as if less education might have gotten him there more naturally. The second amendment, Bryant tells me, was made to keep black folks down. Much like everything else. Surveillance works better at the end of an AK-47.

To take a life is rendered as giving it. It’s Memorial Day, and we thank the dead in ritual deadpan. Little flags pop up at the cemetery; I saw a heap of them in a bulldozer plow one day. Today I saw the grave of a private, bearing no flag. At half staff we see less of the outside, but more of the internal organs like pins on a digital map. Look on zillow to find the value of your elbow room.


Saturday, May 29, 2021

It happens in threes

 I went to the art museum yesterday, now called HoMA. Paid a visit to Kwan Yin and took a photo of her shadow, thinking of my friend Kathy P., who wrote a book of poems about KY. Walked into another gallery and ran into my "mother": a Duane Hanson sculpture of a 1970s seated woman, wearing my mother's blouse, her skirt, her shoes, and her skinny legs. She was taking shorthand on a notebook. (My mother had two volumes of Gregg's Shorthand textbook, which I remembered being briefly fascinated by.) The sculptured face was different, at least. As I left the museum, I ran into Kathy, whom I'd not seen in well over a year. I said I'd thought of her, and showed her the photograph of my "mother."