Sunday, May 31, 2015


O let me so long eye Thee, till I be turned into Thee. He sees their stringy, hairy legs twisting in his head, and birds that kamikaze the heart. He sees them in his bedroom, weaving. They float in air, cause small eclipses of the sun on their dew-drenched webs. What we see as beauty in the woods is horror in the mind. The doctor would have preferred hiding from students their diagnoses of schizophrenia. Mind is not intended to be world, but to enter it like an insect. We crawled on the forest floor, pretending to be ants. Now ants have invaded his head; everything that moves disintegrates. When you tap the web with a stick, the spider sends thread into air and sails out upon it. This is call and response, when you are not yourself the spider's keeper. When nothing's left, you will know you're real.

--31 May 2015

Saturday, May 30, 2015

86 (3)

Thou lovest everyone wholly as if him alone. The lip of Pearl Harbor is covered with tents, men fishing next to “don't eat the fish” signs. (It's a Superfund Site.) A white-haired white guy with camouflage backpack emerges from a rest room, fills an empty liquor bottle with water, lingers. He sits down to watch five or six mokes grilling meat, their truck shaking with bass-lines. One in four persons cited for sitting and lying on Waikiki Beach is a tourist. The girls on spring break vow never to return. “Persons lingering or remaining on stream bank areas may be swept away by sudden floodwaters, may accidentally fall into the stream, or may urinate, defecate, bathe or otherwise contaminate the stream waters.” I wonder at the word “linger.” To remain alive while gradually dying.

--30 May 2015

Language comes from Bill 46, before the City Council this coming Tuesday.

Thursday, May 28, 2015


Men busy themselves only with pots and cups and things at home, or shops and trades and things in the street. Prepositions propose a world: if we're in the street we don't hang above it. If at home, we're not away from it. If we're next to a table, we're not on it, though a kitten might be. In her sleep she chews on an image. We were at the Soviet border when young soldiers took an old woman off the train. One carried her luggage up a narrow path. She had typed pages on her person. She stayed in; we went out. Or: she was kept out and we got in. The preposition floats in a river full of dead construction workers, while a dreamer rises to the surface. Surface is only skin deep, as is skin.

--28 May 2015

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


You must arm yourself with expectations of their infirmities, and resolve nobly to forgive them. There's a fist in my brain some mornings, wrapped around a rock. My hand is not cocoon but vise. The difference, she says, between vace and vahze is one of class. Anger's bitter, but we put it on like a silk shawl. No one kills us for ours. If we hated ourselves less, we could shed these skeins. The mirror's a shallow witness, seeing only what we put in front of it. I am not I who see only myself. The writer's depression lifted after she fell and scraped skin off palms and knees. I take examples out of my poems to leave stains at the top. Use the soft side of the sponge to wash off surfaces; the other side only scars.

--28 May 2015

Tuesday, May 26, 2015


They will exchange Souls with you. He remembers her as the girl from his village. He remembers his house by a red circle on the photograph. He remembers that she eats papaya, and he remembers her nose. India, he tells us, migrates north, as Tibet settles to the south. Kathmandu is the paper plate on the surface of a pool. Aftershocks are earth's grief. A man's head emerges from the rubble, white as stone, like my mother two hours after her death. Two metaphors do not make my mother a statue, the Himalayas a section of black foam, cut in ragged halves. The shock is that land dies, too. Mountains are bodies of evidence, stick to earth's slip. Mt. Everest just shrank an inch. “We cannot stay here, but where is there to go?”

--26 May 2015

Saturday, May 23, 2015


But there are a sort of Saints meet to be your companions...but that they be concealed. My desire to unseal them makes me sleepy. The eyelid is a drive-in, my body the car into which an old cord winds. Keep windows open to receive the dented sound. I'm down to words, the ones that float like feathers after bird-storms. A small bundle of curly hair in the bathroom means my husband cut his hair. Phone call means a colleague died. After long sickness, a sudden fall. I pick up the taut curls, deposit them in the trash. I put the phone down, scratch a kitten, try to summon his voice.

--23 May 2015

Friday, May 22, 2015


There is not a cold cup of water given to a disciple in the name of a disciple. These days you have to be rich to be one. Where's the efficiency in that line of work? Can you optimize your disciple-ship? Bring in a fancy shrink to show disciples how best to follow. Pretend you're at security, and then wait patiently at your gate. Heaven opens only if you follow the rubrics, including a sentence about your worthiness. And then you end up in disciple-housing, barely under the market value, in a holding pattern that lasts an after-lifetime. Disciple and punish, the philosophers call it. Look into the cat's eyeball, where venetian blinds cut a thousand lines in the sun. Soon enough, you'll forget your savior has no shoes.

--22 May 2015

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


There are glorious entertainments in this miserable world, could we find them out. The ancient mask looked astonished before the man sledge-hammered it. “Authorities worry the iconoclastic group of ISIS will destroy the ancient city of Palmyra.” 1981: tiny women, shawls thrown over their bent backs, leaned to kiss icons in Novgorod's “working churches.” No one wins the zero-sum game. My second grade teacher's teacher was ninth in line when the Gestapo shot every tenth man. Shorten the sums: kill every fifth man, because every fourth will betray him. Then gin up for the sixth. Surely someone believes your grand idea, but you can't see through their half-closed eyes. The penal colony's deathly invention kept me awake at night. Later I was told it's funnier in German.

--20 May 2015

Tuesday, May 19, 2015


I confess I can see, but I cannot moderate, nor love as I ought. Walking through Chinatown at night, I feel love, but can't know where to send it. If love is an act, I don't. If love could course down Hotel Street like an electric pulse, I'd need a crowd. “That's Harry's cousin,” Lau said of the man on the sidewalk at Longs, his body thrashing, pointer finger cutting at the air. He nodded hello to Lau's brother Sam. When we walked back, coffees in hand, the man still surged in place. In this cast of characters, it's we who wear the masks. My student placed five on the table, wore one as she read her poems. She who needs none collects them. The city is most intimate where people sit or lie on cardboard or blanket, as if an earthquake tore buildings into doll-houses. I cut my doll's hair until there were only stubs. That was the day I swore her off.

--19 May 2015

Monday, May 18, 2015


Pity embalms love. If love is dead, then pity impregnates its body against decay. Touches its unborn child with one hand, while making change with the other. A sentence about love and death stands alone. Who needs any other? If she'd been less blunt, we might have let her go. But I took away her keys; that was her life sentence. Four years ago, this was her last month. There's no form for that, the continuous present trapped inside the past like a bee inside a flower. Its sweetness stings. The Alzheimer's patient cannot remember, but she feels acutely. To be in time is to be possessed by it. Tense cell, my place of rest electric. After his massage of honey and salt, he spent hours scrubbing off his skin. Why did you choose that one? he remembers being asked.

---18 May 2015

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Review of Tinfish Press books by Albert Saijo and Donovan Kūhiō Colleps

Today's Star-Advertiser features a lovely review by Janine Oshiro of two Tinfish books. If you subscribe, you can see the review here:

If not, here, in liberated form, it is:

By Janine Oshiro / Special to the Star-Advertiser

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 17, 2015

1 / 2 ▶
“Woodrat Flat,” by Albert Saijo (TinFish Press, $19)

Click here for more info!

"Woodrat Flat," by Albert Saijo (TinFish Press, $19)

"Proposed Additions," by Donovan Kuhio Colleps (TinFish Press, $14)

Reviews by Janine Oshiro
Special to the Star-Advertiser

Walt Whitman once sounded his "barbaric yawp over the roofs of the world" — yes, the whole world — but it's specificity of place that matters in two new books of experimental poetry by Hawaii writers.

In the posthumously published "Woodrat Flat," Albert Saijo barks rhapsodic over his marijuana plot in Humboldt County. In "Proposed Additions," Donovan Kuhio Colleps figuratively straps his grandfather's file cabinet to his back to take a walk in Ewa as multiple voices flow through him. You never forget where you are in these books.

Written all in capital letters, in chunks of prose roughly stitched together with dashes, Saijo's poems are rooted firmly in the soil of California and the Big Island. This poet is above all a human animal. "WHEN I CRUMBLE I WANT MY SHELTER TO CRUMBLE RIGHT AFTER ME — CRUMBLE INTO A MOUND OF RICH EARTH LIKE FEMALE WOOD RAT HOUSE DOES."

Saijo's poetry can be read as traditional pastoral or contemporary zui­hi­tsu, the wandering Japanese form that casually gathers up daily observations and fragments. The author himself was incarcerated at Heart Mountain Internment Camp, roamed free as a Beat poet and eventually made his home in Volcano. His strongest poems wed a naturalist's keen eye to the fundamental questions of existence: "IS EARTH LIFE SHORT BURST OF QUAIL FLIGHT." This is visionary work; it contains multitudes.

Multitudinous in other ways, "Proposed Additions" is an astonishing collection of poems constructed by Colleps from his grandfather's cancer journal and plans to build an addition to his home, interviews with family members, song lyrics, historical records and myths. In "Kalapu (A Walking Poem for ‘Ewa)," individuals and stories seem to swell, overlap and break over each other as waves: Kane and Kanaloa, Captain Barber, Hi‘i­aka, grandfather. The result is not an unveiling of a single place, but a convergence of currents remaking and re-mythologizing home.

A luminous elegy for a grandfather, "Proposed Additions" also reads as a guide toward a better future. Proposing an addition can show a desire to keep family close by building a place expansive enough for all. The title poem exhorts: "Build! Build! / While the light is here / while the breeze weaves through the / lo‘i that flourish from his forearms / this is the good that must be found … brass or chrome? / Family or no other option?"

Both books reward readers with "the good that must be found." Is there any other option for our human animal family?

You can order the books from or from


Henceforth I will more admire Thee by Thy sufferings. When the plural of suffering is not itself. The “s” is not superfluous or fluid as this morning's rain, helicopter buzz behind gray cloud(s). When is the plural singular? Radhika yelled “traffics!” from the back seat. Next to Hotel Street, a man sits on a slab of cardboard, resting his back against brick; his clothing is as white as his beard. Twenty paces past, I see his eyes in a woman's face, turned toward the triangular park. It's one thing to see, another to be witnessed. My gaze, gaza'd.

--17 May 2015

Saturday, May 16, 2015


Sweeter to me than the honey and the honeycomb. Too sweet makes sour: we dress our anger as adoration. I cannot trust what does not doubt. An 18-wheeler crashed on the highway, its cargo millions of bees. Bees are dying and we don't know why: pesticides or sickness or long commutes. Migrants die in leaky boats, their positions like stars in some cluster fucked sky. Green paint, a woman's mouth, an arm cast over the side. I see so little from my sweet cell. I want to learn to love this earth without laceration. I want to punch my hand through the lens without breaking it. I want to cup a bee in my palm, place my arm around an arm. Adoration's nothing without clean water.

--16 May 2015

Friday, May 15, 2015


But I was deceived by my appetite. Genre as truth, or lie? Does it matter that one text was autopsy, the other Gone With the Wind? Rewrite one as the other, fiction as soul's autopsy, autopsy as body's most explicit elegy. It matters who speaks, what their skin is. The philosopher argued that we are most our “critical selves.” A shoji screen shields us from what sings. One kitten to each side, tan paper shredded between them. The father of the poet who died wrote that he'd wasted his life. When your critical self checks out, take your drug and your glass of wine. One last trip to pee and it's over. Essays end, but poems ought not. Leave open, so you can play with them like the kitten his morning's cockroach. Last I saw, it was upside down, legs in the air, brown armor against white tile. To read is to rend or repair.

--15 May 2015

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Every one is infinitely happy in every one, every one therefore is as many times infinitely happy as there are happy persons. What is the equation for “many times infinitely”: sideways eight set sideways? A page of math reminds me what dementia is. You could empty my bank account while I stared at symbols. Something about billiard balls. It's all in the angle you take, this question of happiness. In Kathmandu the butcher re-opens for business, though he doesn't trust his building. The mayor has canceled sweeps in Kaka`ako because they don't work. “Work” means the homeless do their unemployment elsewhere. A minister who lives on the streets has to take weeks off to sleep and re-gain her strength. Yet we hear the word “vacation” for all they don't do. My students said the hardest assignment was to do nothing for 10 minutes a day. Nothing is a luxury. I asked him what happiness is, and he wondered that I didn't know.

--13 May 2015

Monday, May 11, 2015


They require it both by desert and desire. When privacy is corporate, we queer capital with photos of our mothers. She failed to see that others acted, too. Theirs was true happiness, while hers was posed. The last photo shows a lone woman on a bench. She was herself in another. Split screen inside the screen, as if this stillest of photos contained a plot. Radhika watches Columbo mostly for his Basset hound, who has no name. A rich artist, his grin crooked as his soul, kills his lover but loses the flower from his lapel. It's not suicide if the parrot dies.

--11 May 2015

Sunday, May 10, 2015


There is in love two strange perfections. In The Stranger, mother was already dead, and so perfect as the plot's origin. I don't remember the rest. Odd that it's American teens' first French novel; confront your existence in simple sentences. Verb forms are like lost wax, time impressed in the hollow of a phrase. An orange cone sits in the middle of an enormous puddle. That draws our eyes. There are two mothers to each of my children, a plaintive arithmetic. I thank them for our sums. Our algebra is not linear, but punctuated; verbs cross paths in costume. Even after she hurdled over the railing of the ninth floor parking structure, she looked happy on Instagram. Left gifts for her family on the roof, chocolates and an iPod. The one question Camus asked, my teacher said, regarded suicide. He opted for mystery, being's extension. Hair pieces more perfect than the real, thicker and more curly. The last photo was of a city park, drenched by street lamps. From a wooden bench, another woman takes the photograph.

Mother's Day
--10 May 2015

Friday, May 8, 2015


Thou must of necessity live, unto something. The resident post-colonial critic said of adjunct labor, “we are not a charity.” One writer wishes he could afford to teach more. Works in a grocery, where the story is, “what is your story?” A physicist and a refugee carry pallets of milk at 4 a.m. toward health care at three months. Precarity sounds like teeth, like teeth falling out, like English teeth in the teeth of an election loss. We take our clichés back to their root, their rotten link to capital's jaw. Marx's beard, also, carried fecal matter. I found his grave among those of men and women who “fell asleep” in that century. The root is literalism, not liberalism, the teeth that were teeth before we yanked them with dental floss attached to javelin or a father's hand. Precarious hours, punched-in at the clock, tick tock cavities; when your tooth falls out, savor the hole in your gums. It allows your mouth flexibility, this absence of incisors. Cut your teeth on it. By the waters of Leman sit down and start knitting.

--8 May 2015

Thursday, May 7, 2015


Whatsoever ye do unto him ye do unto Me.” Conceptualize font, italic, quotation, capital. Assume you and I are mirrors installed in each other's thumbs, that we ride the bus to work and see first passengers asleep, left eyebrows cocked against gravity. An apostrophe presumes possession or contraction. The birth of the sentence often depends on contractions or on sounds that travel over periods. Who knew it's easier to throw a deflated ball than a hard one? That what we leave out becomes a mark that tells us what isn't there? That anger fills the space between question and no answer. Tell me where in your body you feel it, what happens when you express it. It happens for me at the corner of Makahiki Way and South King Street the night Bill 6 passes the City Council. A middle-aged man sweeps the sidewalk outside the tent that he and his wife put up at dusk. No person shall sit or lie.

--7 May 2015

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


Thou has made me the end of all things, and all the end of me. To end is to conclude or to purpose. “My end is my beginning” proposes that my purpose is to start my engines and then put on the brakes. Separate that desire from an adoration of origins, as if they were unsullied land, pure in their lack of contact. Contact me on my cell. Cells are ends to a means, the tiny houses we assign those who do us wrong. My head is full of them. I invite bees in to make honey; confinement can be liquid sweet. Highway through which renewable cells thread like wings of a stage, or over which hang small roofs of solar cells. There are cells in the blood, but also in what we adopt, a place inside the place apart. They course our veins like rubber ducks in the canal, bobbing for charity. Beside the canal, the homeless raise their tents. They too will be razed by the city. Its hive mind cannot conceive of sight as benefit or balm. Abstraction keeps us safe.

--6 May 2015

Monday, May 4, 2015


Friendship will manifest itself in doing all it can for its beloved. It's actor and verb with object. Its beloved need not be ours, but contains it like a hold. Kittens play in concert, which is not to say together. Ineffective as water, our complaints to the mayor. We feel so sorry for the kids, those on bikes who live in tents. Sorry is another country from our own; we go there to the spa of guilt and sorrow. The sun that strikes us with dense shadows sends postcards from the confessional. Priests enter a vocation of forgetting. That's what forgiveness is, moral amnesia like dots accumulating on a camera's lens. “You remembah when?” the small white woman with dog recites. Her mother-in-law Dot died last month. The woman wearing a Tuskegee Airman cap said her grandpa was a poet; his name was Basil Bunting. The Hawaiian activist described himself as “full Chinese.” You know how Thomas Square got its name? he asked. I sit at my table to receive your names in my outstretched palms. I am your free speech zone, your confessional, your merchant of poems. Why move on so easily without them?

--4 May 2015

Friday, May 1, 2015


But what creature could I desire to be which I am not made? His mother told him to throw away his grandpa's documents. There was a headless chicken trophy in his room, because it fell. He hid them in his closet, instead. Remember he said the first day that his grandpa grew chickens? To witness is to remember, but to forget is also witness. Spread white goo on one side of the page, then scrape it off. You can see through it. Forgetting is seeing through, the page on which you see no words but what lie beneath. He said he couldn't breathe; he said it again. She looked at the back of his motionless head and did nothing. Van is not guard, is chamber of torture, agent of rough rides. Who couldn't hear his failing breath as pain's vehicle? What is yours, on a scale of 1-10? (Peg it low.) If they get six runs, you get a free drink. If he strikes out one more time. Who was there to take his count, of pain or pulse? He couldn't speak because his voice box was crushed. May he have happiness and the causes of happiness. May we.

--1 May 2015