ku'ualoha ho'omanawanui

E, You get Saimin?

“Saimin?” she said
“Or u like corn beef?”
Cuz was dalla–tree spesho limit two Foodlan’.
E, we taught mo’ betta den one meal plan
cuz was fo-wa dallas one case saimin
assorted flavahs yeah.
Ho, but das all we been eetin
fo fowa weeks already!

Sometimes we splurge
an buy one can Spam
an borrow some eggs from the
titas next dowa
but only fo spesho occassions like
birf-days, yeah.
But I no feel too bad eh
cuz my tūtū, sometimes she catch bus
from Kalihi
an bring dry aku and poi, yeah.
Ho, dem days we grind
An she tell us when small kid time
spesho occassion birfdays
her madda go tell her braddahs
“E, hele ki‘i moa, go get one chiken”
an dey go chase um an fine one good one
an dey bring um home fo’ her.
An wen dey get home she chop da head
an put um in hot waddah
an pull out all da feddahs
an make chiken wit da long rice
an dey eat that special,
cuz wen get nine keeds
no can feed um eggs, eh? 
lucky get one egg
fo make biscuts, yeah?
An we bus laugh
but den we tink—yeah, no?

Den one tita from da room nex’ dowa
she knock on owa dowa
An she tell
(cuz da window stay open, yeah)
“You gaiz get saimin?”
I stay look at ‘Iwa
An she stay look at me
An we go buss laugh again
An da tita go look at us like we mento
cuz she know we get.
“Shoots” I tell
An ‘Iwa wen get fo her.
“Tanks, eh”
She tell,
An wen she was gone
‘Iwa wen tell
“E! Why you no get one meal plan?”
Ho, dat ‘Iwa
Sometimes she some kine sassy, yeah?

Aunty’s Ake

at uncle Sammy’s 91st birthday pā‘ina
we talk about aunty Lou
long departed;
dad’s mouth waters,
he wants to know—
how aunty wen make ake?
uncle thinks, crinkles his eyes, smiles—
the movie of memory plays in his mind
first, he says,
she clean the ake super good,
outside on the grass
with the hose
take out the gristle,
wash it with the hose
real good kine
da ake must be clean
wash and scrub with cold water
until it’s white and smooth and glistens
run your fingers firmly
across the ake
make sure it is clean
wash again, rinse, check
inspect, repeat
hana hou
then chop
sprinkle Hawaiian salt, alae pa‘akai
and mix
limu huluhulu waena
the dark red one
and mix
lomi da ake with your fingers
pī da pa‘akai
so it melts into your memories
mix chopped limu
huluhulu waena
wash, rinse, check
inspect, repeat
hana hou
until it tastes
like you remember
from childhood

birthday dinners no ku‘u lā hānau

When I turned one
born two days after cousin Lei
our parents threw a baby luau together
A remnant from when
lost ancestors didn’t live that long
a marking of time
for ‘aumākua, colonial survivors.

In the 1960s this meant
matching polyester aloha wear
burnt orange and chartreuse green for our family
Navy blue and white for theirs
in a big hall with twin cakes
sharing kalua pig, poke, and poi
lomi salmon, na‘au, and chicken long rice
raw ‘opihi, ‘a‘ama crab, and fried oama
sashimi, sweet potato, and squid
pineapple, haupia, and hula
aunty’s sweet falsetto
uncle’s steel guitar

with 500 of our closest
for the hapa Pake haole-looking cousins
who shared indiscernible  Hawaiian blood.

In high school birthday celebrations meant
steak and lobster dinners
at a neighborhood seaside restaurant
that cost my dad an entire paycheck.
One year the waiter waded past soft swells breaking
against the moss-covered lava rock breakwater
to fish out a barnacle-covered glass fishing float
a surprise gift from the sounding sea.

It was only after the college keg parties
memorialized in a few fuzzy photos
and potato-shaped stains on beige industrial carpets

That tūtū told me
the real birthday feast
was freshly killed chickens running wild
in the backyard
caught by barefoot younger brothers
plucked by tūtū nui over a pakini
of swirling steaming water
dressed with ginger, served with day old poi
every birthday a special treat
of chicken long rice, wale nō.


Mud oozing between my toes.
I loved this feeling once.
Visiting Aunty’s house at Wanini.
No need tennis shoes,
No need slippahs,
No need even tabis—
only bare feet would do.
Giggling, we run with bare feet
Thumping noisily through honohono grass.
Waiting impatiently for Aunty.
She took her time, always.
Patience was never my virtue.
We stand, wait, sense, feel;
the smell of mud beckons.
Spring gurglings tickle my ears.
The ocean grumbles nearby.
Dragonflies dance at eye level.
The sun warms our backs.
Mosquitoes buzz in our ears.
I slap at them, miss.
Cool breeze rustles leaves
chattering over our heads.
Tang of salt on lips—
Sea? Sweat? Blood?  It’s all the same
Toes twitch on wet grass.
Aunty catches up, says, “Okay.”
We kāhea, “E aloha mai.”
Step carefully into the patch.
Feet sink in fragrant mud
soft sucking sounds, muddy caress
melody of movement embracing feet.
Today we are cutting lau.
Tonight we will feast on stew,
lū‘au stew, Uncle’s favorite.
Aunty cuts stems with precision,
Snap! Passes lau to me.
Red sap oozes from stem.
“See?” she says,
“Our link to Hāloa.”
Hāloa-naka, kalo kūpuna
Taro ancestor
From whom we descend
Kānaka Maoli.
Later, we will harvest corms,
maybe make poi,
or just pa‘i‘ai.
Snap, snap, more lau cut.
Now we are pau.
Aunty says, “Take just enough.”
I slipslide carefully
move muddy toes cautiously
so we don’t damage kalo.
Stepping up, mud pulls back,
an embrace from kūpuna,
that’s what Aunty says.
I heave—the mud sighs.
Smack! Back on wet grass.
The smell of mud beckons.
Spring gurglings tickle my ears.
The ocean grumbles nearby.
Dragonflies dance at eye level.
The sun warms our backs.
Mosquitoes buzz in our ears.
I slap at them, miss.
Cool breeze rustles leaves
chattering over our heads.
Tang of salt on lips—
Sea? Sweat? Blood?  It’s all the same
Toes twitch on wet grass.
I hold bundled lau—
careful, like keiki.
Aunty catches my eye;
We kāhea, “E aloha mai,
mahalo e nā kūpuna.”

Our lo‘i kalo fed generations
No one lives there anymore
Who can afford it?
I’m in the city now,
an island away—
a lifetime, really
Hanalei poi costs at least $7.95 lb.
Lū‘au is $2.89 a pound
And who knows its origin?
I wear shoes all day—
my feet like shoes now.
Soles tap on concrete, asphalt,
all day, all day.
Fingers tap on computer keys,
all day, all day.
No fingers itchy from kalo,
no blood-red sap stains from Hāloa,
no toes sinking in mud
fecund, pungent, embracing.
Aunty tried to teach us,
we tried to carry on.
But capitalism
trumps family tradition.

detail of Diasporic Waters - Joy Enomoto - 2014
Baninnur: A Basket of Food

kuʻualoha hoʻomanawanui is a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian) nationalist, scholar, aloha ‘āina advocate, poet, and visual artist. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa where she specializes in Oceanic (Pacific) literatures, place-based writing, and indigenous literacy. Her artwork, poetry, and short fiction in Hawaiian, Hawai‘i Creole English, and English have been published in Hawai‘i and internationally—some translated into other languages—in publications such as ‘Ōiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal; Hawai‘i Review; Whetu Moana; Mauri Ola; Ho‘olaule‘a: New Pacific Writing; Native Literatures: Generations; and Kurungabaa. She is chief editor and cofounder of ‘Ōiwi: A Native Hawaiian Journal, which features Native Hawaiian writers and artists. Her first book, Voices of Fire: Reweaving the Literary Lei of Pele and Hi‘iaka, was published by the University of Minnesota Press in 2014.