Paki’oki’o, Fence, Between, Whitewash

Paki’oki’o
They say that Hawaiians have
139 words for rain
Flecks of water scattered on the landscape of volcanic ash,
Verdant hillsides and hunakai birds gliding over the sea foam
Torrents and mist a part of their story
Like hula and unsolicited highways
I have yet to find words for the wind
Whistling through the empty gaps of my mind
The unease rattling endlessly in the fault lines of my skin
The sharp cracks like blanks firing at railroad tracks
As I hurdle forward toward nameless stations
Language is lost in the hollow space
Between the rivets of an undetermined future
I concede
I am but a drop of rainwater
Trickling down the unchartered hillsides
On the sprawling landscape of a story not yet told
Fence
Curly hair like briars
Up against your afternoon scruff
In the pink light you hold me over
The splintered fence in the backyard
The one you built in late September
With the logs from grandpa’s ranch
Now it digs into my chest
As I lean over the wooden slats

And I see the rolling mountains
Lavender with fairy dust
And the horses in the pasture
Running free through tangled brush

You see the road? You see the cars?
When I’m gone, that will be you
Riding free on open plains
Doing the things you wish to do
I watch you as you speak
I smell the whiskey on your breath
I see the black under your eyes
Lined by charcoal and restless rest
You set me down in plodding motion
And start to creep toward the house
As if your limbs were
Tied to the land
Now I lean against the fence
I am forever anchored here
I am Prometheus on the rocks
Yearning to finally be free
But you need a car to ride the road
To buy a car you need to leave
This house you emptied years ago
And for the fence you made no key
I need you here to lift me
Up and over the wooden slats
Because I want to see the mountains
And the horses before they disappear

Between
If you seek the truth
Listen to the wind as it whispers between
The city and the red tent
The well and the village
The attic and the parlor
The veil and the bride
The red and the white lights
The pens and the saucepans
The car and the supermarket
The mind and the hips
The lipstick and the lips
The yes and the please stop
Only here can you hear the wind whisper
For it disappears where the in between ends

Whitewash
On the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act.
The walls of the classroom used to be black
but we’ve painted over them with a layer of bright white
paint and a high-gloss finish.
Not until the redecoration did we realize
how difficult it is to strip a wall of its first color.
We instruct the children to design posters with
rainbows and flowers and butterflies
and stick figure people drawn with purple red green crayon.
We plaster them to the bleached walls hoping they will
distract from the splinters of black peeking out from the corners
and convert us all to solipsists and make us forget.
All the while we wonder if we should have hired a better painter.
Every so often, we remind the children never
to make the same mistake as we did in painting walls black.
It makes a room dark, stuffy, impermeable to sunlight.
A very hostile environment for learning and living.
They nod their heads in passive acceptance then we avert their eyes from
the most obvious of palimpsests, the Panther in the room.
But we can still see it crouching in the air with a sly smile
creeping into lesson plans and soaking into worksheet fill in the blanksso we open the windows and hope this time it’ll be wafted out for good.
We’ve actually been meaning to ask the science teacher
if it’s possible for the chemicals in paint to have cut through extra layers
and remained in the air
for fifty plus years.