When I started my MFA, I had about a dozen or so poems. They were really just drafts. I had published three pieces prior to coming in, and I was pretty proud of that. But what made up my portfolio was really formless blob. One of those poems was called “Canyons.” It, along with “South Point Fisherman” and “Mortality,” were the anchors of my portfolio and I worked endlessly on them. They went from prose blocks to short lines, with stanzas, without, with strophes, then back to stanzas. Unlike the other two, I gave up on “Canyons.” I loved the idea, but the poem never fully materialized the way I wanted it to.
Fast forward about a decade, after Japan and the move to Boston, and I returned to the idea. I wrote a whole new draft, a new poem. In many ways, it’s a very different poem, but at the same time, it is essentially the same poem. Just closer to what I wanted. This poem is one of several that’s gone through a total ground-up rewrite where the original was in the end discarded. It’s a good exercise.
Mom once called Mt. Waialeale
the wettest spot on Earth, where no one
goes, where you wouldn’t want to,
where the rain is measured in feet
and the water falls
down all the yards of the all the miles,
dodging, cutting the earth, at first shallow,
then deeper and deeper
through the strata of the island’s body.
A sharp wound splayed out, open
to the naked air. The more interesting layers
exposed. The green stretching towards the sun.
And I wonder aren’t we like that—
our crust, hard yet green. Our passions
open to be carved up by time
and exposed to an unforgiving light.
When I was old enough to know
what would help and young enough
to know what would hurt,
I let each moment rest on me
each new chance to feel, to know add up.
I added new skin over the old
until I was ready, new earth
waiting to be explored.
And then there was you, the idea of you,
the touch of you and your idea of me,
the obstacle of me. Did your love flow
like water, cutting me?
Did you cover me like a heavy, looming cloud?
Or did I choose you as the earth embraces
the ever constant rain and let your love flow
in steadfast rivers and disappear into the sea?