Just back from Vietnam in 1971, he drove down the narrow road to Miloli'i. The sea's deep there, so they fish in the old Hawaiian way. From one hut he heard the most beautiful music. Points toward the stage: it was that guy, Led Kaapana. Saved his life. He remembers this song—must be getting old. Scots-Irish-Chinese-Hawaiian. Hawaiians used to welcome everyone in, he says, his arms stretched out in a circle. His family sold his land. Money, he says, rubbing his fingers together. Money. Bought land in Waiahole and grew papaya. But then the Agent Orange; he points to his chest, up and down. Sounds so good, eh? A-GENT O-RANGE. The jungle was a comfort to him, but then they walked out into the bright light. We killed three million of them, and they killed 58 thousand of us. The Chinese fed their hungry. (He's Chinese you know.) His great-grandfather was Scottish but spoke Hawaiian, fished the windward coast. That small church at the Marine Corps; he founded it. They all died of disease, no matter who they were. His unit came after the B-52s laid down their carpets. They killed the ones who were terribly wounded, had to. One guy tried to enlist for a fourth time, but they didn't let him. He remembers this song—must be getting old. He forgets things now. Puts down his coffee cup and walks out the golf course side of Honey's Bar and Grill. It's owned by the Presbyterian Church.
Saturday, May 28, 2016
From the past alone, if we love it. A pretend eternity, like the Saigon theme park full of giant concrete Buddhas, where the rides were mostly broken. If movement is fun, then this was monotony. The tea was sweet, though, and we ran into each other on the wooden bridges. If this was a theme park, then our theme was dysfunction in the shadows of a curiously permanent impermanence. A tall ferris wheel jerked slowly over the abandoned roller-coaster, like admin over a humanities department, or athletics over pure science. The Galapagos has a thriving tourist industry; if you wait long enough, you evolve into the person of your dreams. But that's too long to wait, so stop time, before you speed it up. Your flower will bloom as quickly as one Rothko gifs into another. Crystal meth metonomy. He saw young men with the hearts of 80 year olds. Our kids squealed their joy from inside the tunnels of Cu Chi.
Posted by susan at 12:32 PM
Friday, May 27, 2016
We have to try to cure our faults by attention, and not by will. I looked down at the First Folio's open page and read, “to fleep perchance to dream.” When a dyslexic businessman looks at street signs, he sees letters but not where they belong. His only order, memorized. My student's sentences flit from hurt to hurt like hummingbirds. I ask him to look at what he's leaving, but that's for a later age, after the slowing down of synapses (and their attendant asps). The dream included snakes, but they were shedding skin rather than flashing it. Earth is covered with our molting: shell casings, bird shit, flat tires, a pile of wood where a single-wall house fell in on itself. To attend to this is not to reverse animation, turn tragedy into farce. It's to rest in the particular moment of our dying. The envelope arrived from Thailand with hardly any address on it: my name and place of work. Ithi's memory book; flip it either way and he smiles. Dead “by his own hand” at 33 on this Good Friday. I fucking hate symbolism.
--i.m Ithi S.
Posted by susan at 11:22 AM
Tuesday, May 24, 2016
Every separation is a link. A tall unshaven white man in ankle wading pants carries a metal pail from Times to the crackseed store and down toward Subway. I'm buying banana bread outside the plate lunch place from a small shy kid who plays lineman on his football team. His mother doesn't know if that's offense or defense, but she knows he has six cousins and a brother who also play. Before she came out with change, the man with the pail walked by and asked how much. $5 I said and he said “not this time, not this time.” It crosses my mind to buy him a loaf, but I don't. I watch him walk past with his pail. As I open my car door I remember the bag of toiletries in the back seat. I gather together shampoo, toothbrush, moisturizing cream, and set out to find him. I circle the parking lot three times. He's gone.
Posted by susan at 11:18 AM
Monday, May 23, 2016
The temporal was only a bridge. Radhika asks what apostrophe means and I say “O bridge!”: that doesn't refer to hours the governor closed a bridge out of spite. Power is a means, yes, but it's also mean--the way lack of commitment masks itself as indecision. She fears the cruelty of breaking a non-commitment, asks the newspaper ethicist what she needs to say. A world-renowned ethics professor sexually harasses his foreign students. The question we pose is so obvious we hardly need ask it. She wonders what is more cruel, the saying or the not-saying. If the bridge had an end, we could never get off it, gulls arcing beneath us, as we worried over concrete spalling, angled for repairs. The man whose shrill shirt balloons never lands, hangs in the air between roadway and the river. We have stopped him cold with a single syllable, calling into being what never ceases to die.
Posted by susan at 11:38 AM
Sunday, May 22, 2016
It is better to say 'I am suffering' than 'this landscape is ugly.'” The Chinese poet said he suffered and I envied him for that, not for his suffering but for the word itself. The gap between suffering and our words for it is like a vertical trough in the Ko'olau; even the rain can't fill it with enough light. Early morning wind and birds conspire an ambient sound. Brssss, Sangha would say. Was he ever sick, his aunt asked, and I said no more than most kids. The cousin who shared his rounded face had orange hair and carried a cell phone. I caught a ride on her motorcycle, zigzagging down a thin road between densely packed thatched houses. The village stood on a point of land; up the rutted road people kept thousands of ducks in pens. What's ugly is not land but what it hosts: genocide, HIV, a brother gone to Thailand and not heard from since, another whose face closed like blinds on our gaze. We nursed our clouded glasses of tea; in front, Sangha held a framed photo of his dead mother; his grandmother quietly placed her hand on his leg then pulled it back. We know there's been a wedding and a funeral since. When asked if he'll return, Sangha says he got to leave.
--Takeo province, 2013
Posted by susan at 11:57 AM
Saturday, May 21, 2016
To see each human being (an image of oneself) as a prison in which a prisoner dwells, surrounded by the whole universe. A Republican senator claims we are an “under-incarcerated society,” by which he no doubt means there aren't enough private prisons. My student is a private person who wears a mask. I was astonished when others finally saw distress in me. The prison-house of language is no place for such conversation; it's what we can't know that's true. But in its absence, sit down on your cot and bask in the glow of sunlight as it strays across a bare sink. Eyes are the locks of the soul. A crow bar would blind you, so pour honey on them. No guard can open that slick sweet lock; he meets your helpless gaze with his.
Posted by susan at 10:41 AM