Hu Tianbao waves to asphalt and sky. The bumper of his mother’s car has long since exited the drop-off zone, yet he still stands moving his arm in the building’s entrance doorway. Left right left right dawdles his hand. A farewell to punctuality. He’s alone, everyone else already nestled in their classrooms, reciting poems.


Thirty-Seven Theses on Time and Memory


Drawing of author when young, by his grandfather

Grandfather’s drawing of author when young


Memory, that elusive quicksilver running through our lives. How at first, at birth, there is nothing, really, almost nothing, and how slowly it develops after that, all the years when there is no visible shadow on the ground behind us. And how it is that, for those years, we accept our lives as the steady panorama of whatever is right in front of us, moment to moment.

I’m trying to think when any memory worth remarking arrived. Did I have memories when I was ten years old? I know that in sixth grade, when we were all leaving behind Walnut Lake, our red-brick school, there was some inkling. Not a procession of memories, not yet, but rather an inchoate nostalgia, a definite sense of something being lost. There came an awareness of the past, and with it the realization that there is a kind of timeline, a sense of futurity that had not really been there before.

Thirty-Seven Theses on Time and Memory

Call and Response


My grandmother likes to tell me dogs
            understand everything you say, they just can’t
say anything back. We’re eating spaghetti 

            while I visit from far away. My grandmother
just turned ninety-four and tells me dogs
            understand everything you say, they just can’t

Call and Response

Symphony of the South

Translated by MAYADA IBRAHIM 

Uncle Musa died. A year after his passing, my father headed north. He said he would be back in a month.

It all happened so fast I barely caught it, like a migratory bird resting in a dark corner of the forest, like all the things that crowd my memory. No sooner do they appear than they vanish. When I try to recall the details, to understand what happened, none of it makes sense. Time lures the mind into letting go, submitting to the abyss, but I know the mind is capable of reaching into the well of the past. All these memories, from time to time they pierce through the pitch-black darkness. They gleam and fade into the shadows of this exile, of this rotten world.

On one of the shadowy days before his departure, I accompanied my father to the farm. It was the afternoon. Our farm was just outside the village. People were drying their earthenware in the sun: cups, bowls, pots, censers, jars. Children ran around them and erected little churches. They waded deep into the mud, sinking their hands in as if into spilled blood—the blood of an offering, perhaps—smearing their faces and tossing it at one another. They yelled and called each other names. Their clothes were the color of rust, their faces crocodile-like.

Symphony of the South

Around Sunset


The days seem kindlier near sunset, easier
when they are softly falling away
with that feeling of sad happiness
that we call moved, moved that we are moved
and maybe imagining in the dimming
all over town of hurry and resentment
that difficult loves rekindle

Around Sunset

Black-Out Baby


This poem is excerpted from Eh, No Talk Li’dat.

Eh, No Talk Li’Dat, an anthology forthcoming from Kaya Press, is centered on Pidgin, or Hawai‘i Creole English. The following poem is excerpted from this anthology.  

Pidgin began as a dialect of trade between Native Hawaiians and Western seafarers and merchants and evolved as a Creole language in the sugar plantations in the 1920s and ’30s, yet, until today, it is deemed substandard by school administrators and is not recognized as a Creole language by the State Department of Education. It is the only language I can think of in the U.S. that was co-authored by the various ethnic groups in the islands: Native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders (Samoa, Tonga), sugar planters and migrant laborers from Asia (China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines), Portugal (Madeira and the Azores), and Puerto Rico. Recent speakers and innovators of Pidgin include transplants from Micronesia. In addition to the poems, stories, and excerpted plays, all written in Pidgin and contributed by over forty of Hawai‘i’s writers, the genre-defying Eh, No Talk Li’Dat includes archival materials, newspaper articles, transcripts of televised comic skits, and comic strips.  



Da Japs, my strange kine relatives, 
wen jes bomb Pearl Harba. 
Ebery nite from den on, each house 
had only one black-out light with  
a puka in da center. 
People had fo tar dea windows 
and craks unda da do-uz 
had fo be stuf wid rags, 
scolding da lites dat dare fo show up. 
If not, da block checkas go come, 
jes like termites come aroun da lites. 
And those who broke da law,
going hea banging on dea do-uz 
and if you one Jap, 
you gotta be careful cuz 
dey can sen you  
to one jail kine camp, 
somewea in Colorado.  

One nite, one woman wen go into layba 
wen was real hot unda the black-out lite. 
Into this dark-kine time, one baby wuz born. 
Da baby was me. One black-out baby— 
nosing aroun in the dark 
wid heavy kine eyes, 
and a “yellow-belly,” 
filled wid one real angry cry!  


Juliet S. K. Kono is a poet and fiction writer born and raised in Hilo, Hawaiʻi. She is a survivor of the 1946 tsunami. She has written extensively about the Japanese American experience across the generations. Author of four books, including Hilo Rains and Anshu, she is retired and lives with her husband in Honolulu.

[Purchase Issue 27 here]

Black-Out Baby

Was to Get It


I tried to get in touch with my inner knowledge.
Turns out I have no inner knowledge.
I used to think I did.
Could sit on a rock contemplating the frog, the river, the rotisserie chicken
and know that everything is connected to everything else.
Or, that I had a messed-up childhood and never fully left the home.
Or, that abandonment was a product of eating too much candy.
But then the dog saw the squirrel.

Was to Get It