- To Ea:In Response to David Kahalemaile, August 12, 1871
Ke ea o ka i‘a, he waiLu‘u a ea, lu‘u a eaBreathe deep, O breath-stealing oceanYou offer much but exact a toll as wellOur friends and our land swallowed by your hungering mouthToo many mistake your surging power for invulnerabilityAnd your injuries wash up broken and rotting upon our shoresYet your tattooed knees show that you too have been ignoredSides heaving, coral rib cage expanding, contractingBreathing, an exertion made difficult in this ageThis era of disrespect, of not honoring reciprocityAnd those closest to you are those who sufferUntil we rise again from your depthsYearning, reaching, crying for ea
Ke ea o ke kanaka, he makaniHali mai ka makani i ka hanu ea o ka honuaWind called from our lungs‘Anae leaping from the pali, two minutes at a timeSome lifted on the shoulders of the windOthers clawing for breath as they fallWe are taught never to call them backThe wind returns, but they do notMouths stretched open until jaws crackUsed as fishhooks, drawing forth our connections from the seaCircular and round, soft and untenableWind sweeps infinitely into night
‘O ke ea o ka honua, he kanaka‘O au nō na‘e kāu kauwāIn your presence, I count by foursCarrying a breath in each space between my fingersEach palm drawn toward the groundCalled close by your fertilityOur noses touch [End Page 575]
Nothing but the ea held in our manawaCartilage, skin, and bone connecting to rock, earthAnd young, smooth stoneThe hā of genealogical age passes between usAnd I know the weight, the measure, the depthOf my connection to you
Ke ea o ka moku, he hoeuli‘O ka hōkū ho‘okele wa‘a ke a‘ā nei i ka laniFamiliar stars and swells etch a map in our aching bonesRemembered pain is how we find our way to youFrenzied waves whip the ocean to a bitter frothBut we’ve never forgotten how to navigateHow to draw our fingers across the face of a passing waveThe sun strains as our sail, while birds lift our hullsKoa has always grown on this sea, in our masts, our hulls, our heartsLeaving only the question of crewWe accept only those who will step bravely into darknessFor we have the generations to light our way
Ke ea o ko Hawai‘i Pae ‘āina, ‘o ia nō ka noho Aupuni ‘anaE ka lāhui ē, ‘o kāu hana nui, e ui ēThey tell us that they have seen the wonders of MānāBut it is only heat rippling on sandAnd we are angry that they are pushing a mirageThere is no fucking bucket—But we have always been crabsPai‘ea, Kapāpa‘iaheahe, Ka‘a‘amakualenalenaHolding fast to the stones, fighting against crashing wavesEach struggling breath between sets reaffirms our eaAnd what they refuse to recognizeIs that when we yell, when we shoutWe do it not in angerBut to reassure our ancestorsThat we are still here [End Page 576]
Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada believes in the power and potential of ea, of life, of breath, of rising, of sovereignty, because he sees it all around him, embodied in the ‘āina, the kai, his family, his friends, and his beautiful community. He is a PhD candidate in English at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, focusing on translation theory. He is currently editor of the journal Hūlili: Multidisciplinary Research on Hawaiian Well-Being, and works as a Hawaiian-language editor and translator.