Monthly Archives: April 2009

Boss of the Food


Before time, everytime my sista like be the boss

of the food. We stay shopping in Mizuno Superette

and my madda pull the Oreos off the shelf

and my sista already saying, Mommy,

can be the boss of the Oreos?

The worse was when she was the boss

of the sunflower seeds.

She give me and my other sistas

one seed at a time.

We no could eat the meat.

Us had to put um in one pile on one Kleenex

Then, when we wen’ take all the meat

out of the shells and our lips stay all cho-cho,

she give us the seeds one at a time,

’cause my sista, she the boss

of the sunflower seeds.

One time she was the boss

of the Raisinets.

Us was riding  in the back

of my granpa’s Bronco down Kaunakakai wharf.

There she was, passing us one

Raisinet at a time.

My mouth was all watery

’cause I like eat um all one time, eh?

So I wen’ tell her, Gimme that bag.

And I wen’ grab um.

She said, I’ng tell mommy.

And I said, Go you bird killa; tell mommy.

She wen’ let go the bag.

And I wen’ start eating

the Raisinets all one time.

But when I wen’ look at her,

I felt kinda bad cause I wen’ call her bird killa.

She was boss of the parakeet too, eh,

and she suppose to cover the cage every night.

But one time, she wen’ forget.

When us wake up, the bugga was on its back,

legs in the air all stiff.

The bugga was cold.

And I guess the thin that made me feel bad

was I neva think calling her bird killa

would make her feel so bad

that she let go the bag Raisinets.

But I neva give her back the bag.

I figga, ehh. . .

I ain’t going suffer

eating one Raisinet at a time.

Then beg her for one mo

and I mean one mo

fricken candy.

–Lois-Ann Yamanaka, Growing Up Local

Chinese New Year


koong koong lights ten thousand wishes

he laughs at his grey hand

bursting into sparks


he takes two steps back

mosquito punk in hand


hard of hearing

he feels firecrackers

vibrating in his heart


red leaves cover his feet.

–Eric Chock, Pake: writings by Chinese in Hawaii



Mejiro — a deft green stroke


or hopping from branch to branch,

tail upstruck–

is the moment’s punctuation,

a comma

flickering so quick

the rest of the bright green syntax

                   can only wheel after,

a lost clause trying to catch up.

–Joseph Stanton, Bamboo Ridge, no. 97, spring 2001

Lesson of Essence (Recess II)


I was coming out the ocean

Approaching the showers minding my own biz

When I met this kid


He must have been ’bout one to two

Walking but not talking yet

Completely naked

Skin soon to be brown

But as of now completely unexposed


So he looks at me and I look


He stares intently at the red rubber ball in my hands as wide-eyed

And I’m like “oh, you want this ball?”


He immediately grabs it bounces it and giggles

He just tickled his own imagination

And I continue on with my biz

Shower up as if

To say hey. . .you go play with that ball for a bit. . .

He runs off his momma calls to him

“Makana, be careful”

And I’m thinking to myself Makana means ‘gift’


And I continue on with my biz

But this kid is captivating me

He’s expressing pure joy without words as he hurls the ball

With all his might

I keep him in my sight

As sand swishes off my feet

And now I’m double, no no triple rinsing my hair which I never

     really do but I’m doing all

That I can to stall

I just want him to experience the ball


By the fifth rinse it’s time for me to go

And I know it’s gonna be difficult for me to get that ball back


But he throws it to me

Appreciative of the time

And at this point I’m having a very hard time leaving

So I roll the ball back

He picks it up

Bounces it for a sec

Then checks it back to me


It now seems as if we’ve got game

So I stay

And we play

Back and forth

Back forth

Back and forth for a bit but

Then he stops,

Drops the ball

It rolls off

And he holds out his hand


I go get the ball

Then I go to give him five

But realize

That that’s not what he’s trying to communicate


He looks sad. . .

Or in pain, yeah that’s it it’s pain

‘Cause I now see a poki pricking into his finger

I barely even touch it but he reacts automatically

Shudders dramatically

And yet he still stands

With his hand out

He trusts me with this poki

So I’m thinking. . .

I’ve gotta do this quick otherwise

We’re both in deep s&*#

‘Cause his skin is like tissue

It’s ridiculously sensitive

And pokis *&^%$#@ hurt


And his eyes

Are peering into mine

With pure trust

You see

He hasn’t yet been

Sworn into a childhood

Of “don’t talk to strangers they’re dangerous villains out to get you”

He hasn’t had time

To learn how to ignore

The rest of his community as his day passes by

He hasn’t learned this societal bull

He’s simply being as his heart tells him to be


Trusting. . .of me


He’s open and standing

And I’m asking

His momma who’s five feet away. . .

“Is it okay?”


She smiles and nods yes

She gives me the go-ahead

And so I go

I take a deep breath

And in one swift move

I grab and pull


His body twitches temporarily

But the worst is now over


He looks and smiles

And I nearly cry

This is the essence of existence

He picks up the ball as if

To play again

But our time has come to an end

And my new friend

Is wondering where I’m

Wandering to

As I walk away slowly saying

“Makana, you can have the ball. . .”


And for me,

It was a small price to pay

For a brief lesson of essence

–Kealoha, Kealoha


Childhood Memories


She sewed my bunny costume

and watched me tap dance at Chinese school.

She held me in her lap when I confessed,

downcast, that Santa was a sham.

Both of us sat silent at dinnertimes

during my father’s tantrums.

She called up Sheryl’s mom once

to arrange my date for a sophomore dance.

With one hiss she used to scold me

for staying up too late to watch TV.

In the car she told me how

she told her friends that Jesus was her Lord.


These are the memories I have of her–

a mother and her young son,

one giving love, the other always receiving,

though not without protest.

We had no long discusions

about the woman that I would marry,

about the days I wore my hair long,

or about China and its revolutions.

I did not share whith her my opinions

on whether there is a life after death,

or whether the real estate market in Hawaii

will continually go up.

She never got a chance to hear me

speak to her in Cantonese

or to hug my skinny daughter.

I never found out why she loved my father so.

When I visit her grave

I ama a child again, forever.


I would not have it any other way.

–Wing Tek Lum, Bamboo Ridge, no. 60, winter 1994

Comin Home (for Kaʻohu Cooper 1959-1987)


Hilo bay

was so mālie


aku boats

wen out smoothly


your ashes was

in da tackle box



wid pua kenikeni

your wife

an mom


throwin plenny

ginger from da farm

us guys had

Lily of da Valley


we was goin

sing but hahd

afta cry so much


back at da house

everybody ate

mosly coffee

at first, get

rid of da beer

from da wake


but den, poke

kālua pig an

cabbage, lots a


sweetbread, your mom

was strong, more

strong dan us


she tol

about your grandpa

how he came


in one dream

to your aunty

night befo


you lef, funny

da day was hot

afta all da col


kinda day

you woulda

bin at da farm


when pau fishin

all night, even

your mom said


you use to

go early befo

anybody got up


nobody had


to talk story


little bit, play

music, neva

had time


to say

one aloha


befo you lef


why you wen

so early?


hahd for believe

you neva

comin back

–Haunani-Kay Trask, Light in the Crevice Never Seen

Loʻi Kalo


In the early morning,

a bouquet of winds

swirls above the loʻi kalo.


One, like a Kuewa, a wanderer,

rambles aimlessly

coming in low to the ground

from one side.


From another side,

the wild gypsy wind, makani ʻĀhiu,

streaks downwrd

stirring hearts of leaves

that flail in commotion,

myriad hues of rippling green, dancing across the loʻi.


Makani Hoʻohani, a taunting wind,

teases and flirts with the kalo

that bob and teeter coquettishly in its wake.


And sweeping down the slope of the mountain

is makani Lena,

a cold wind from the south,

a rush of fragrant ginger.


Sea winds invade the land

with sprays of lipoa,

the strong distinctive smell

misting the air.


The kalo are planted firmly upon their mounds,

each puʻu, an island,

moated from others by

icy cold,

crystalline clear,

upwelling water from an artesian spring.


They are rooted deep, the kalo,

in this land of our kupuna,

sucking lustily of the honua, the earth.


I tread upon a bank of the ʻauwai,

the ʻauwai that flows

among the loʻi kalo.

This is a gentle walk.


I pause,

and the pungent smell

of wet, raw earth surrounds me.

Damp earth, slippery beneath my feet,


as I reach forward with my toe

to touch the water.


Oooh. . .it is cold,

so cold, this early

on a morning still emerging from the night.


I hate the cold.

I shiver at the thought of what comes next.

As I walk

to the place

where the dayʻs tasks will begin.


Images of back-bending work

with the sun beating down

on backs already stinging with sunburn;


Images of toiling in freezing water until sunset,

of hands and feet turned white and wrinkly,

too exhausted and cold

to wash the mud from our ears and hair

before going home

at the end of the day.


And always the cold

the relentless, unforgiving cold.

This will be a hurting walk

to that first step

into the water of the loʻi.


I know I must not hesitate,

yet I do.

I know I must be bold

to overcome my dread,

the shock of water so piercing,

so cold.

Still I don’t.


I hate the cold,

but I fear Mama’s wrath more,

her angry eyes,

the set of her jaw.


Now I think of all the work that must be done,

weeds that need attention,

two rows of taro to be pulled,

their beds rebuilt, new huli planted,

encroaching grasses

suckled away from the edges of the ʻauwai.


I start.

I take the hurting walk.

— Makia Malo, Bamboo Ridge, No. 73, Spring 1998



How you must have dreamed,

most venerable father,

of the perfect yomesan

who would bow deeply before you each morning,

hand you the steaming, milky miso soup

with ribbons of konbu dancing in the broth

and open your drapes

to chase away the insecurities of aging.

You had three sons,

a lucky number,

surely, one of them would bring her home,

the daughter-in-law of your dreams.

Instead, eager to break the mold

of your nisei expectations,

they brought home only gaijin

or worse, the half-breeds,

poi dogs with Japanese faces

and katonk aspirations

of moving in the fast lane in the big city.

But how well you have adapted,

most aged father,

to eating lasagna with your rice,

poi with your sashimi,

and brushing away cobwebs

of past dreams

with lauhala fans

made by your mongrel grandchildren.

–CKI, Intersecting Circles: the voices of hapa women in poetry and prose


 At Kahakai, the beach,

where I gathered these shells for you

I thought about how your dad

and I had talked about the hand-holding

between grandparents and grandchildren

that can save a language.

A bridge across “the generation born with no ears.”

I tell my students, What good writing is about is:

it’s about good thinking.

Ho’oipo said, My friends are too intense.

I think about that.

Pua said, I’ve felt like

jumping up on the big koa conference table and

machine-gunning all the people at the table

for what they’ve done to Hawaiian people.

But I do the harder thing;

I hold them with aloha.

Against my left wrist I feel

Kupuna Kauahipaula’s fingertips insisting

I learn to answer her “Pehea ‘oe?”

“Maika’i,” she says. “Maika’i,” I repeat.

“Maika’i, mahalo,” she says. “Maika’i, mahalo,” I say.

She releases the firmness of her grip

on my wrist.

My pulse beats stronger,

her mana.

I am held

in her aloha.

Her hold, now

a caress.

–Hina Kahanu, Bamboo Ridge 25th anniversary

How to Raise Creative Children

118947879_7557a0a9d2_m.jpgBlue and Brush

T.A. Barron, author of The Lost Years of Merlin epic wrote an article in Parent Guide Magazine talking about raising creative kids (Oct. 2004). In an nutshell, here’s his top ten most important things anyone can do to encourage a child’s creativity:

  1. Be creative in your own life. Be a role model by honoring your own creative impulses: read, sing, ask questions, scribble, paint, tell jokes, write poems, imitate a howling wolf.
  2. Read aloud.This is one of the most powerful sparks of creativity.
  3. Surround your kids with creativity. Make your home a place that invites creative play and exploration. Unstructured play materials (old magazines, modeling clay, colored paper, spare clothes) are easy to keep handy.
  4. Fan those creative flames. Try not to judge, and encourage wild ideas now and then.
  5. Record ideas and experiences.
  6. Turn off the television.
  7. Experience nature.
  8. Talk about creative people.
  9. Don’t overschedule.
  10. Creativity is a way of life.