From Hanami: South Point Fisherman

As a college student, I went with a high school buddy to his grandparents’ home in Naʻālehu on the Big Island of Hawai`i. We went to see a total eclipse of the sun. This was a fun trip. I hadn’t been to Big Island before. In fact, I’d only been to one outer island up until that point, which was my father’s home island of Kauai.

After the trip I wrote this poem about my friend’s grandfather, who was a fisherman and had his boat docked off of South Point. Like many poems of that time, I wrote this as one large prose block. It went through a bunch of revisions before I started my MFA and then Jim, my advisor, suggested short lines, which is the form it’s in now. During this period, stanzas fascinated me, which is why it’s in stanzas too. Revision is a funny thing. You can really play around with it. This poem, along with Mortality, got twisted, torn apart, reassembled, and back again before they reached their final forms. Now they’re twins. Funny that.

“South Point Fisherman” is a bit nostalgic now. It’s from a time when I knew I was leaving Hawaii and not coming back.

South Point Fisherman

He sits and eats
a bowl of rice.
His wife pours
coffee to keep him

warm. He drives
to the cliff where
the boats are moored
like sleeping ducks.

The truck’s tires
wear smooth trenches
into the road.
All night with his nets,

waves lap the hull,
paint peels away like
his children’s children
who’ve left home.

The years show
in his fingers,
short and fat as
stunted cucumbers.

They wrap around
the iron rungs
as he climbs down
the warped ladder.

He drags his nets
and carries each fish
with habit’s
callused rhythms.

And I see how different
they are from mine,
these long shadow fingers
dancing along the wall.

Hanami was published in 2015 by Aldrich Press by Kelsay Books. You can find Hanami at Thank you to Karen Kelsay, who is my editor and publisher, for all her wonderful advice and help.

This entry was posted in Cooking, Hanami, Japanese America, Poetry, Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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