A poem for the times: and one night, all that was burning

And you may ask yourself: 
where are the honey bees?
and the kopiko with their tired little faces?
and why so many hurricanes on steroids
and melting icebergs
pulling apart our worlds,
and pushing them together—and—
tear gas, fire hoses, blasting at liberty and justice
and peaceful protesters

Well. I'll tell you everything.
But first—
I lived in the green rolling hills
above Honolulu
and high schools and churches and parks
From there you could see 
Diamond Head
And for miles on trade-wind days
a sea of smooth sapphire
Our house was named Nu'umealani
the heavenly terrace, because it floated over paradise
with plumeria-scented air
a charming place with pink-cheeked children
rolling like chubby ohi'a'ai down manicured slopes

Do you recall
at night, how the lights silhouetted
green geckoes munching pale-winged termites
our lanai under which

the summer glow spilled down the hill like a suicidal angel

Later our breath became steam spiriting the sky
sated, we huddled together on that apron of emerald lawnand tried not to touch those spindly horsesour legs, minds, hearts tangled—our hair, nests of leaves and poky twigs

but elsewhere in our homeland, fracking and—
black gold flowed like a filthy-rich river
into deep pockets bursting with sin
and here, our fertile valleys swollen with sprawl, and yet

Homeless pile in the parks and streets
rents out of reach
the wide divide
humanity pushed from place to place
like so much genetic dust in front of a political broom

How life is stacked
like chips at a casino far, far away,
now laughter, now bullets, now bright lights—
the show must go on
and what happens in that city
does not stay in that city.

It’s everywhere—
Columbine, Colorado
Orlando, Florida
Sandy Hook, New Jersey
To name just a few

From our balcony we watched the green flash
and Waikiki fireworks
our blinds, they quivered and fell with every breath
glistening silver and ebony opihi
relentless crowds of tourists ambling toward the waves
And one evening everything was ablaze,
one evening people were slaughtered like cattle

screaming in terror as they fled
fire fell like hot rain from the sky
and then it was silent
but not really silent, no
there was sobbing and sirens
and confusion
and so much blood.

We fear ISIS and thugs with grills
along with burka-wearing women mumbling foreign prayers
that no one will hurt them and their children
while all our children’s blood soaks the streets
like it’s nothing, so simple
it happens every damn day.
Demons that demons would detest,
curses regurgitated as prayers
as we bite our lips
until we bleed

Snakes that the snakes would hate
we are the snake, we are the serpent
hate is a karmic circle that returns to us
we reap what we sow

Others—we see their fear
they see ours, too, and so—
eye to eye becomes
an eye for an eye
guns, guns
more guns
because guns don’t kill people
people kill people
but people do kill people
and isn’t that the point?

The American answer is always
to swagger and blast our way to safety
to bluster where we should be silent
to shield our pride, with a slippery trigger finger
rather than truly protect all that we hold precious
all that is only on loan to us

Perfidious politicians
see our dying house
our country on life support
hate, ignorance, and fear flowing like venom
rather than compassion blossoming from tolerance,
from every corner of our land
our country emerges a little less free
and from each murdered innocent
their blood soaks into the ground
and becomes seeds that will one day
be a tree with poison apples
and with every act more venom flows
into our rivers, our lakes

And you may ask yourself
why doesn’t she speak
of hope and peace and rainbows
and the once mighty volcanoes of her adopted land?
Look at the blood on our hands
as we pick that apple and take a bite
look at that water, glowing like lava
too toxic to drink
look long and hard—
© Sati Benes Chock

"And One Night, All That Was Burning" was written in homage to Pablo Neruda’s
"I Explain a Few Things" (1914-1973)


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