Friday, December 23, 2022

Man in cemetery lacks GPS

"Dis happens every yea," he said. He'd been walking in large squares in the cemetery, holding a cardboard box that contained a vivid yellow cup, a small potted flower, and (as it turned out), a bun wrapped in saran wrap. He was a local Filipino in tall black rubber boots, camouflage shorts, and a dim green shirt. "I bet she's laughing now," he said of his aunt, whose grave he was looking for. "Every yea." I laughed, suggesting he might want to talk to someone about this. Said I always got lost when I went back to visit my mother. What's the name? I asked. I heard "Pacheco," so Lilith and I started making our own geometrical shapes, as I tried to locate a grave with a capital P on it. A young man was sitting off at the corner of one of our squares beside a grave. "Here it is!" our friend called out, and we wandered over, only to find a grave marked Cacheco. (I discovered how unhelpful I really was.) "My father's over dea," he said. Another yellow cup, another small flower. Born in 1919, died in 2004 or so. He'd had an older father.

Sunday, December 11, 2022

At the bus terminal, Hilo


His mind went from Cardinals (my cap) to cardinal directions to telescopes to baseball stadiums. Not a baseball fan but likes bird teams. He also likes stars and the Hollywood walk of fame. Wants to study architecture and engineering but most of Hawaii is water, so it’s hard. Finds out I was an English prof. He was an English major, from California, got an award for journalism (for his clear writing). Not many people here are well educated, he tells me. Lots of English majors in Volcano, I tell him. He turns up nose. The point isn’t for English majors to talk to each other. Lots of scientists, too, I say. Nose wrinkles and he’s off to stand in line for the Pahoa bus. 
—Hilo bus terminal

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

My mother-in-law's COPD


I can see the glow in your mouth! The mouth a fissure, bounded by a fleshy cone. The lava will form tubes soon; they’re more efficient, but there's less to look at. From a helicopter, you can see rivers flowing down the Mauna. The mountain has one mouth open, two closed. The sound is of breaking every glass in your kitchen, or that’s as far as analogy takes me. I could not hear the flow, only others’ chit chat. She says she hates small talk so much it hurts. But when the mouth opens, it promises something. Our speech roils like heat waves from the caldera where figures for emotion melt into rock. The fountain, at dawn, leaves a trail of vog in the saddle, the plume of a plume moving toward Maui and Oahu. You live in such an interesting place. Should she go to a tropical island when there’s a volcano erupting? If you survive, her friend responds. The cost of our ignorance is the loss of joy in witness. Not apocalypse but creation. Not terror, but sweetness. I turned up Saddle Road, driving toward the full moon, a sky of stars, and Mauna Loa’s fountain, its twisting ribbon of red. We may never see this again, Bryant says, and he wishes it would end.

Monday, December 5, 2022

Eruption conversations



Across from me at Gate E5 was a local couple of a certain age (likely mine adjacent) who looked worn and unhappy. The man, a braided gray pony tail running down his back, brought a large plate lunch to eat with his wife, whose broad face was framed by glasses and slightly off-color hair. They just wanted to get home to Hilo, they said. Then: she had worked the night shift on O`ahu for years, hates O`ahu (her voice would get softer when she said, "people have such _attitude_"). And the traffic, the road rage. It wasn't really worth seeing the eruptions; better to watch on tv. Not much to being there, really, except to be cold.

When he'd lived in Makaha, he'd worked in Waikiki; got there on the bus. It took hours. Then they moved to Wahiawa; he worked for Enterprise Rental Car at the airport before he retired in 2014. They'd bought a couple of acres in HPP, and moved there. They didn't like O`ahu, would never live there again. "Two days max for me now," he said.

A delay was announced. The airplane from Kona had arrived late. "I just want to get home," she said. She didn't like O`ahu. Our Southwest numbers were next to one another, so we got on the plane together, finally, and they gave me the window seat, which I'd mentioned wanting a few times. She really just wanted to get home, she said from the middle seat, which she didn't mind.

We got to the reef runway, about to take off, get her home, when the pilot, a woman with a slight German accent, came on to say there was an indicator on that meant we couldn't take off, would have to return to the gate. Getting back to the gate meant meandering from runway to runway, letting other planes land, and finally re-arriving at Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. The German woman came on and talked a long time before saying we were not getting off, the fix would be quick, and we'd be on our way.

Sounded like a light bulb needed replacing. At least that's what my pony tailed friend laughed about sardonically. The man in front of me, who had held a baby curious to lower the shade until he lost patience (he had none, truly) and thrust her at the woman seated beside him. He emitted a torrent of quiet "fuck's," and then fell asleep. When awake, he was unkind. When asleep, no doubt he was consistent.

The woman next to me really wanted to get home to Hilo. The captain said the issue was fixed, but now there was paperwork to do. 

We pushed back again. We taxied to the runway. We took off. The captain said we would be 1000% safe. Over Maui, I caught sight of Mauna Loa's plume! "I just want to get home, slip in my pajamas, and watch my show at 6," my neighbor said.

By 4 a.m. I was standing beside the Pohakaloa viewing road, gazing on Mauna Loa's fountain, its lava flows, the red radiance of the clouds against the black lava, night. To my right the full moon. One cloud, holding still beside the fountain, was white on its right side, black on its left. I could hear two women coming down the road. "She doesn't want to have sex with him, but she goes to Monterey with him on weekends. Sad. She doesn't even like his company." The woman's parents were upset when she'd split with the "such a nice man." A few minutes later, they came back down the road the other way, now talking about cars. The non-talking woman stopped to take photos of the flow. They nestled together for a selfie. "Touch your face! Touch your face!" the talker said. "So it focuses on you." Then back to the car conversation and into the night they ambled. Coming toward them, and me, and us, a long line of headlights.

I drove up Mauna Kea Access Road, found a vantage point from which to see the flow from a higher angle. Muttering of voices, smell of pakalolo. A Spaniard arrived, said that earlier you couldn't see anything, but he'd set his alarm for 6 and here we were! The sun rose. I drove down the mountain, stopping to see offerings left by Mauna Kea protectors, some of whom still had a campsite down by Saddle Road. HAWAII IS NOT PART OF AMERICA one installation read.


Sunday, December 4, 2022

Lilith meets Tall Man Theory, redux


1. "Please keep your dog on a leash," I called out to the blonde woman walking across the parking lot from me and Lilith. "He IS on a leash," she responded. "I mean, all the time; we had a bad experience the other day," I said. "I know," she said. "I just felt really sorry for my dog," I continued. "No hard feelings, just letting you know." And that was it.
2. I spotted him coming down the hill at the cemetery and cut a corner to greet him. "Excuse me! I have a new book out and you're in it," I declared. "Really?" "About the time I bummed some poop bags off of you and you said dog owners are like cigarette smokers." He laughed. He still has two dogs, but one's a puppy. The other one passed, he said. He asked me what the book's title is. LILITH WALKS, said I. "LILITH WALKS," said he. On Amazon? Yes, on Amazon. He kept going: puppy and church.
Quiz: The marketing strategy described in number 2 works best for
a) situations 1 and 2
b) situation 1 only
c) situation 2 only
d) never

PS: Number 2's story can be found on page 31 of LILITH WALKS.

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Double anuenue

I turned to look back where we'd walked from and saw two rainbows arching. A group of Filipino workers clustered near the entrance to the cemetery, preparing a gravesite. I took a photo of the rainbow, a backhoe in the foreground, man seated with his back to me. "You like my backhoe?" he said, turning around. A second man looked at me: "you want to buy it?" No, I said, I have no use for it, except to take pictures. And that is a poetics.
Almost home, having stopped at the eucalyptus tree with its "abstract" designs, glistering greens and blacks, we ran into our retired Air Force friend. I insisted he look at my photos of the rainbows. "You're out here too late," I said. No, he'd seen them coming through the H3 tunnel. Amazing. "How was your Thanksgiving?" he asked. He'd taken his wife to Roy's (not a steakhouse, as he'd thought). "Oh, that's high makamaka," I said. "My wife's name is Maka," he said, telling me about his $187 dinner. Must have been the three glasses of wine, he said, heading off down the hill.