for Clifford Nāhinu Kekauoha, Hanalei, and Haleakalā



This was always the map:


from Pō to Pō


You begin here


E haʻalele mau i ka lipolipo



The old roads must be there

moonlit enough to walk



Here is when I think your favorite mele is Hanalei Moon

since you played it on the organ most nights before bed


I played with dolls on the floor as you handwrote

the notes onto the manuscript paper above


when you sang the words to find the right chords. Here

was where you grew up, where you said every ʻohana


had their own loʻi kalo, a mala. Here is where you made me

butterfish and poi, the eggs with salted water and poi


when I was sick, where you taught me to twirl the poi

on my spoon and kahi the bowl. Here was when we laughed


and listened to the ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi tape, asking

each other Nohea mai ʻoe? Mahea kou ʻāina hānau?


Later when you heard I was going to Hanalei, you’d draw

me a map of what you remembered as a child before you left


with your ʻohana. Here is when you ask if I could find

your brother’s grave. I found him with your map


by the church where the tī grew thick and wild, and the ‘ieʻie

climbed up the trunks of so many trees and the forest felt


like it would reclaim him. Here is when you tried to send

me poi in Aotearoa twice. Here is where you planted kalo,


avocado, orange, and jabong, maiʻa, when you gutted the fish. Here

is when you were maybe 4, youngest keiki of 5, when you were


made to speak English only, though your mother’s first

language was Cantonese and your father’s was ʻōlelo.


Here is where you joke that everyone needs to be careful

what they say around me because it could turn into a poem.


Here is when I was 4 and you told the haole girl

next door to apologize to me for throwing water


in my face. You were watering the plants and asked her:

What’s the matter with you? How would you like it if I did that


to you? Here is where you teach me about germinating seeds,

algebra, how to give and take a joke, how blue light is carried and


scatters. Where we read books of moʻolelo together. Where

I can’t help but think so much about you is a poem, where you tried


to grow beans, squash, corn, grew protea to sell wholesale

and sprayed the pesticides again and again to save them. When


you told me I couldn’t have an allowance like the haole girl next door

because I get fed and clothed, sheltered and loved and in return I


should just learn to see what needs to be done for our ʻohana

and do it. Here is when you asked me to help you get up, where


you watched from bed as Hanalei flooded, the church steeple and

the roof of your old school resting just above the ʻalae water


as it bled into the bay. That summer was wela. I got that

portable air conditioner because the fans just blew hot air


around you. Here is the first time I had to help you in the bathroom,

where I make the bad joke that I’m relieved that you’re relieved


and you groan-laughed as I told you you’re the only one

who would ever get that, as bad as it is. Here is when you fell, when


the carpet became too slippery for you to walk on, where

you mixed the poi and kept the bowl full, when you would slice the ahi


into sashimi over cabbage, the last holiday turkey you cooked

on the Weber, the last 5-meat stuffing, the last pot of jook. Here


was when you stopped playing the organ at night. I called

the hospice nurse because you were sleeping too long.


You woke up, made jokes with her, and later I walked her to her car

and she told me it’s good for you to sleep, that I just have to help


make you comfortable. I have to face you don’t have much time.

Here is when you asked to call the folks from church, where you sang


Hanalei Moon with them before their blessing. Here is where

I became strong enough to hold you, to turn you, to carry you,


and when you stopped asking me to help you get up. Here, you

asked if I was happy. Here, you asked if I was sure that I was happy.



It was Pōʻakahi when the last hua ʻōlelo you learned was lawa.

Just a little poi. No more medicine. Lawa already. You said.

Pōʻalua, when I started sleeping in the chair next to your bed with

my baby because there was a ghost you kept seeing in the corner.

Pōʻakolu, when you slept for most of the day, where I realized too

late that there were too many lasts in the past few years and days.

Pōʻahā when you seemed like yourself again and asked me to wheel

you outside on the balcony and deck to see the sky and Haleakalā

in the ahiahi as the moon was rising. Finally a cool breeze as you

looked over that darkening ʻāina of fruit trees and flowered green,

the orange-pink streaks piercing the clouds as the sun sunk. Ua lawa.

Pōʻalima when you kept sleeping, started gasping like ʻaʻohe lawa.

Pōʻaono when—you stopped it all—when all of us were out of the room,

when all of us thought there’d be more time, when


ʻaʻohe lawa ka manawa

we thought we’d be with you, when


you end and begin end and begin


Lawa pono ʻole kēia mau hua ʻōlelo

e hanohano i kou ʻāina hanau,

e hanohano i ka ʻāina hānau

āu i hoʻokumu ai no ka ʻohana




This was always the map:


from Pō to Pō


The roads are said to edge toward

the pali overlooking the ocean


E hoʻihoʻi mau i ka uliuli.


I’ll look for you here where when.