for my wife
and our unborn daughter [håga]
We cannot think of a time that is oceanless
Or of an ocean not littered with wastage
—T.S. Eliot from ‘The Dry Salvages’
filtered tap Brita Pitcher Plastic Water Filtration $24.99
fish eat ʻahi poke : $17.99 per lb at safeway in mānoa
preserved with carbon monoxide to promote color retention
because every 4-pack replacement filters $24.99
lv- e- s
before i first
visit [her] in
we eat ʻahi
limu poke at
we wash [our]
hands in salt
water and forage
the tide for
learn [our] body
i mistake trade
winds for her
[we] come against
close our eyes
to see what
darkness asks [us]
to let go—
before chickens crow
the sun rising—
before i knew
i would stay—
before vowels and
birthing [our] sea
of moving islands—
[she] is breathing—
at home under a muku moon—
every island is an end and a beginning—
we time the contractions—
neither ocean nor oceanless—
thirty minutes apart—
hacha hugua tulu fatfat lima—
“imagine each contraction is a wave”
says the voice on the hypno-birthing app—$9.99—
the alphabet is a collection of bone hooks—
neither arrival nor departure—
i place my hand on [her] darkened piko—
neither origin nor destination—
sounding lines measure night passing—
should [we] go to the hospital?
dear fu’una, first
mother, this is
my first prayer
to you, full
of questions: taotao
manu hao? where
are you from?
what made you
leave your first
home? war, disease,
rising tides? so
many of [us]
have left guåhan,
deployed to faraway
dispensa yu’, i
lost [our] first
language in transit,
first words become
first sister, what
did you carry
aboard the canoe?
hacha hugua tulu
carried my passport,
baseball cards, and
coin collection aboard
i batkon aire
to san francisco—
how did you
during RIMPAC 2014
Understory: in ecological studies, ‘understory’ refers to the plant life that grows beneath
the canopy of the forest, and consists of a diversity of shrubs, saplings, fungi, and seedlings.
Pō: In the Hawaiian belief system, Pō is the creative darkness from which all things emerged.
Fu’una: In the Chamorro belief system, Fu’una is the mother of creation that gave birth to the
Chamorro people. Worship of Fu’una was displaced by the missionization of Guam and replaced
by Catholic beliefs of creation.
Poke: Hawaiian dish made with raw fish.
I tinituhon: Chamorro for ‘The Beginning.’
Hacha hugua tulu fatfat lima: Chamorro for ‘one two three four five.’
Dispensa yu’: Chamorro for ‘forgive me.’
Piko: Hawaiian for ʻnavel.ʻ
Mākua: Hawaiian for ‘parent.
I batkon aire: Chamorro for ‘airplane’ (literally, ‘air boat’).
Hanom hanom hanom: Chamorro for ‘water water water’
DU munitions: DU stands for ‘Depleted Uranium.’
SINKEX: Military term that refers to a ‘Sink Exercise,’ in which an unmanned target ship is
used for torpedo or missile testing, sinking decommissioned warships in the Pacific.
RIMPAC: Military term for ‘Rim of the Pacific Exercise,’ the largest international maritime
wartime exercise that takes place biannually in the waters around Hawaiʻi. In 2014, the year
my daughter was born, twenty-two nations participated in RIMPAC.
For more on the territorisation of the ocean.
Various covers of Jeff McDougall’s song, ‘My Island Maui,’ can be listened to on YouTube.
Craig Santos Perez
1 August 2015