A Short Lei of Childhood Words and Phrases

pompoms, pollen puffs,
bee worlds all needle
and nectar.

Pilikai, wood rose,
dried pod, mystery
of a wooden flower.

Belt, snake in the pants, uncoiled
streamer of pain, the smallest flowers
of tears overpower you.

Pele, her anger that often streams

Plumeria, graveyard flower, pua melia
to the old Hawaiians, the delicate limbs
of the tree so easily broken.

May Day, muumuus, holokuus,
bare feet sliding to hula at school,
“I want to go back to my little grass shack,”
everyone floral, celebrating.

Mele Kalikimaka “is the thing to say
on a bright Hawaiian Christmas Day.”

Hula, real grass skirts
or post-war cellophane.

Hibiscus, five red tongues, five petals, five stigmas,
five lobes to calyx, everything its own
family of five.

Mai Tai, in the Crow’s Nest
on Kalakaua Boulevard, a bird-
sounding word, cruelly
delicious drink.

Drink, he needs one.

Sorry, for what
is to come.

Bitch, he shouts it.

Bastard, she screams back.

Anthurium, heart-
shaped survivor, brighter
than blood, crimson, carnal,

Banyan, that ghost-ship
of aerial roots...

Susan Kelly-DeWitt | Mudlark No. 33
Contents | Lucky Luck