Kaua’i reveres the Menehune who farmed taro,
and later, plantation workers
eating rice from tin pots in the fields.
Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean, Portuguese, Puerto Rican,
mahalo, I thank you, my mother, as I walk along the beach
feel your fingers wrapped around my hand
like when I dragged my toe in wet sand
and dreamed of everything I wanted to be.
With all the helicopters in the sky you’d think this was Oakland,
every 40 minutes a new tour flies over the Na Pali coast,
a pilot pointing out the beach where Nellie in South Pacific
washed a man right out of her hair.
Cultural references give places significance,
like this morning when I rubbed myself with sun block in front of the television,
a news anchor interviewed a man who demonstrated
how to make poi the old way, pounding the root to a taffy
and rolling a free sample between his fingers.
The host pronounced it good. Very good.
Some things are transmitted in waves.
To know Kaua’i, you must
drive the rental far from chain-linked traffic
to bamboo forests shielded in philodendron
and up the basalt side of mountains
where everything is endangered and hidden.
You explain how people have always
packed up and migrated to a fresh watering hole
until the next hurricane.
Palms rub their fronds against each other
in the Trade Winds and then blow apart.
Which way do I swim now?