Kiln Press 1

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KUY: stories and poems






KUY: stories and poems. Published by Kiln Press. Copyright Š 2014. All rights reserved. Designed by Bianca Bystrom Pino. Cover photos by Jessica Homrich.

Kiln Press Joseph Han, Editor 265 S. Vineyard St. Apt. B301 Honolulu, HI 96813


Kuykendall: stories and poems written by UHM creative writing alumni

first in series: Kiln 1



KELSEY AMOS From Impossible Scatter


Return being here is a struggle what is it about monkey pod trees? like my mother who is beautiful and couldn’t be otherwise I know these trees so well they are unremarkable and gorgeous it’s strange I used to spend so much time in a car seat watching power lines go by I have a theory being a baby is like being high (remember, this is me looking happy to be here) I used to spend so much time making sense of beauty marks impossible scatter what are they? my mother has them so I figured they must be ok what a comfort to memorize I know that bird sound I know its feeling I haven’t woken up this early in a long time

7 Mililani, very late the air turns cold through the windows it come from the gulch what lurks there I think of things I can’t control how I shiver when I’m nervous how I’m up late again I wish to read the atmosphere understand pressures— I need to become a cipher I need to tell you about my goose bumps my clenched shoulders I need you to listen I don’t want to seem disorganized I present to you my demands: teach me how to wrestle a child again red cheeked nose dripping chasing playmates in the cold


condo hunting in Pālolo They circled each other in that dingy condo for hours before I arrived and when I got there I was pissy “Come out on the balcony” they say “You can look at the mountains” “Feel inspired” “Write poetry” My family has learned that like a plant I require certain conditions: sunlight, air currents, temperature, humidity and unlike a plant I do not wilt quietly They recite their inventory: the possible couch placements kitchen islands, cabinet upgrades the shelving dad could build me the obvious need for ceiling fans Then they look to me If this were a perfect world my mouth would spool a slip of paper cut neatly at the end And they would read it together the answer, at last! which we are all seeking: That the sun will shine through a fine valley rain because this is love we have and it is structurally sound, beyond simple well-meaning But as things stand, I can only nod and agree:

9 put in a new carpet and this place will have definite possibilities


City Mill & the cave the break room is full of cockroaches I pull my legs up and sit sipping cold coffee in a styrofoam cup everything here is part of a fine dust soaked in a thin grime there have been too many bodies too many exchanges of coins mold is growing in the vending machines a little useless fan marks time no one loves this place but rather like a brothel, here we satiate, we feed in 15- or 30-minute intervals, anonymously the brave ones make conversation but they too must always rush off well, some civil soul has stacked the newspapers at least someone has taken out the recycling the TV is still on, playing Yu-gi-oh! softly the fluorescent lights do their jobs (they will not do more) as for me, I daydream, I rest my tired feet while the AC loses fluids into two oversize garbage bins I can see how the manager/madame might love this place “It’s a wreck,” she thinks, “but it’s all mine.”

11 Satisfied as Stones My mother took home rocks from Alaska— said they had an excess of it there. The mountain and the stream spit it out in torrents, which is what had brought me and the Corps to Seward. It is a beautiful place. A long bay surrounded by snowy peaks— the gulls are huge, life is large and spacious. I walked the length of town as an outsider imagining a curious, cold type of freedom. At night— the bright evenings, eating halibut with engineers and military men. So much fleece and denim— the vowels and voices secure in the business and real things that are known. My mother among them is a queer creature; she will not be going out for drinks later. She will stay in— fiddling with seating charts telling me how the future is India and Southeast Asia— or how Seward was built on a floodplain and would not be without the Corps. Then, on the fourth day


they are gone. The weather holds up. I drink coffee and read— Leaving Resurrection. I am sad to go. At security in Anchorage they search my mother’s bag two laughing TSA agents— pulling little bits of slate and quartz out of socks. A jolly ensemble— my mother talking of mica flecks. TSA let us through, but it could be we are cursed. The rocks have been displaced. I’ve heard this is “superstition”; this is Hawaiian epistemology, non-applicable in Alaska? But maybe— I do not know if we will pay or are paying for her part in this mundane construction— the building of military homes of flight lines, commissaries and exchanges, the damming of waters. She said she’d thought the pinnacle of her career would be a bridge— an elegant and mathematical thing balanced with arching lines— a feat a female thing, with poise. Bridges bring together or

13 hold together maybe or mark things as apart. I wonder about connections. I wonder about these, our desires. But my mother is more certain. My mother is a rock. Maybe she is breathing heavy these days because of the way dams creak and groan. Too much pressure— a constant erosion or a moving in geological terms, which is slow yes, but building. In Seward I read about Two Old Women Athabaskans— abandoned by their tribe who found a way to live. They set traps and caught animals. They drank meat soups, and hiked for days in the snow. My mother is strong like them, but not as tested. My mother is round and solid and certain. She sits heavily where she was dropped. It causes a strain. I do not know if I’ll be like her, if I will calcify or dissolve squeeze into diamonds or melt or grow moss. It seems silly to talk about intentions, when you’re a stone— rolling, as they say.


I’d like to visit Seward again, in the summer, with hot dogs and barbecues, and a big fat American trailer. I want to camp and fish and wear windbreakers— and then I want, despite myself, to find something ancient and crucial a grotto a spirit animal a wise wolf in short, all the usual yearning— which makes me wonder if the rocks call out to go home that much more than the rest of us.

15 For Haunani-Kay Trask when women are betrayed they become ghosts or monsters and there is work to do from that hidden point of guilty terror I get that but you still scare me


the end of something the rain used to fall on the t朝 leaves outside the window in the cold afternoon for a while it was as if I had a home with you

17 devastation and reform everything is lava fields unwelcoming and strange how did they live? little gardens in crevices in the rocks holes bored into the hard earth for piko skin rubbing full of forlorn longing against roughness like the surface of the moon like the surface of your face which I know too well is tender


sad place the wind screeched through the windows & doorways last night natalie woke up (she is in love with somebody without even trying) I thought I was making progress: the radishes sprouted the potatoes are planted but I know and I told you we’d make a sad baby the questions become easier— logistics instead of love keeping busy and forgetful of the beauty god or somebody gave all to me

19 the time for globetrotting is over my new goal: to make everything dear whether by looks, or taste, or poverty like green onion, fried egg, and rice like nourishment like an athlete’s body or like a naked acrobat twirling round a pole in the sky she transcends all the chaos that brought her there


Makiki in March one day soon I’ll take the tinsel down throw out the old brown tree tuck away two stockings ornaments and a star one day soon I’ll pack these things away neatly in the back of the closet spring is coming and yes spring is a funny concept here (does anyone know the word for an anachronism not in time in place?) but waiting outside for my ride to my little cousin’s third birthday party —where we will smile because we are happy to see a happy child and also sad— it feels like spring the same waiting and restlessness the same morning cool turning warm smell of evaporating plant on the dry breeze blowing hair getting sleepy thinking there’s love out there having fun without me O neighborhood people! walking by find me, start me let me turn a corner and run into friends


Author’s Statement My thesis was a collection of poetry in which I basically attempted to write poems in Hawai‘i, which I felt at the time was a very hard thing to do despite (or because of) it being the place where I grew up. In the process of writing the introduction to my collection, I learned (or made up) a bit about my influences, which might have included among other things the new sincerity, Wayne Westlake, Robert Creeley, and some screwed up sense of the mystical in poetry. My poems are also very much a reaction against some of the elements of “local literature” like the use of pidgin and commentary on ethnic oppression. I respect local literature, but following too closely in its footsteps felt untrue to my nature and to my privileged positioning as a settler in occupied Hawai‘i. The challenge that I grappled with and that these poems came out of was finding a way to write truly and usefully from the middling place of that positioning. Craig Santos Perez was my thesis advisor and biggest mentor. Candace Fujikane and Frank Stewart were also very important to the evolution of my project. Often what the three of them told me conflicted or seemed completely unrelated. I took my creative writing 625 with Susan Schultz, and the writers in that first year class are the ones I remember as my writing community. There was Gizelle Gajelonia, Alexei Melnick, Eleanor Svaton, Donovan Kūhiō Colleps, Danielle Seid, Jane Callahan, Quincy Greenheck, Alex Dorcean, and others. I can also think of people from other classes like Jaimie Gusman, No‘u Revilla, Donald Carreira Ching, Steven Tonthat, Abraham Yi, Shantel Grace, Lynn Young and Sara Young. I felt aware of these other writers around me, but didn’t really approach any of them to talk about our work, etc., which is too bad.


Kelsey Amos is a Ph.D. student in English at the University of Hawai‘i Mānoa, where she also teaches introductory composition and works for Hawai‘i Review. The poems in this collection are from when she was a frightened little M.A. student.



M. Thomas Gammarino From Prisoner’s Cinema

25 My first few years out of college, I worked as an assistant in the Hardcover Sales Department of a big publishing house in Greenwich Village. My friends were all jealous because they thought I’d hit the big time, but if they’d checked my pay stubs they’d have found I was making even less than they were. I had brand recognition was all. I had a logo with a cute little waddling animal on it. Like many, perhaps most, people who work at publishing companies, I wanted to be a writer. I dreamt about it, made vague plans, even made some preliminary markings. But most of the time, my atrophying body sat in a warm, farty chair composing naught but sales grids, and I barely wrote a word when I got home either. I was protecting myself from eyestrain, not to mention what Pascal called “the eternal silence of these infinite spaces.” They terrified him, they terrified me. Okay, some of my excuses were better than others. The best was that I was tired. We all were. My friends and I had come up the sons and daughters of a generation that believed with a horrible vengeance in the American Dream. They’d done well by it, many of them, much of the time. They had big echoey houses with sun rooms and cleaning ladies, drove sleek cars with navigation systems, had restored sight and attenuated wrinkles. And enough of them were divorced that most of us were convinced the problem wasn’t theirs so much as the institution’s. The thing was to learn from their mistakes. We elected a half-black president, for instance, ate Indian food, broke up with our high school sweethearts immediately upon graduation. But as soon as college was out and we got slapped with the revelation that we couldn’t evade saber-toothed reality forever, we pretty much followed our parents’ example. We moved to the City, got jobs, began growing older. My boss, one Manley Farquhar, was a redhead of Scottish extraction who didn’t like me one bit and whose eyes looked uncannily like wounds. Despite holding an MBA from Harvard, and, weirder still, an MA in psychology from Brown, he had elected to sell books for a living. He was based in San Diego, where one of the big price club distributors had its headquarters, but even from that opposite coast he found ingenious ways to lower my self-esteem. On my second day at the company, I opened up my Outlook Express to find an e-mail to the entire department warning that I might have sabotaged an entire data base. By noon it was clear I’d done no such thing, that he’d simply caught a rogue error and freaked, but whereas the original achtung went out to the whole depart-


ment, the apology—which wasn’t an apology so much as a mere acknowledgement—came only to me. It was a nice way to be introduced to my new coworkers. Still, I could handle the abuse by e-mail, even with all its caps and hair-trigger punctuation (“WHERE’S MY COPY OF ABSOLUTE POWER??????!!!!!!!!”), but he wanted me to check in with him by telephone at least once a day and that was when things really became unbearable. He’d give me a bunch of instructions about how to enter such and such a formula in such and such a cell and I’d follow along as best I could and take notes, giving it my best shot really, and then he’d say something like “Am I making sense?” and I’d try to say something ingratiating (because I wanted people to like me—most people want that, I think), something like, “Let’s just say you’re not making nonsense,” and then he’d spit right between my eyes—“Ooh, pretty literary there”—and my confidence would flake like an old croissant. In time, I realized I couldn’t take my boss’s personality defects to heart. He didn’t like anybody else either. And not too many people liked him. The thing was, he could sell books like they were going out of style, which according to all the insider publications they were, so no one was ever going to fire him. I thought of quitting. I came within a syllable. I’d never wanted to be in that department anyway, but when I’d shown up to interview for the editorial position, the girl in HR told me the position had already been filled but that another had just opened up in Sales if I was interested. I wasn’t. I wanted to be an editor, and really only that because I wanted to be a writer, and really only that because I generally preferred alternate worlds to this one. Still, we’re all condemned to a certain spell in this one, I figured, and this was a foot in a door at least. Plus, I’d been job hunting for four months already and knew that if I had to e-mail one more resume, I was going to go 21st century postal, rant and rave on Craigslist, strangle a Grand Theft Auto hooker—something like that. I got the job. I’d expected the guys who sell books to be like the guys you imagine hawking cars or mattresses—Glengarry Glen Ross types, mustachioed chain-smokers, two-timers in powder blue suits—but except for my vampiric boss, my coworkers turned out to be pretty likable all in all. A good quarter of every workday we spent chatting away by the water cooler, or the coffee maker, or the copy machines. We regularly napped

27 with manuscripts on our knees and more often than not stretched the lunch hour into two. At least once a week we all headed down to a nearby pub called the Nose. If you were lucky, you could sit right at the entrance to the right nostril. The Chinese cooks in the cramped kitchen made a fantastic Shepherd’s Pie. Moreover, the Irishman who owned the place clearly advocated sexual discrimination in his hiring practices and this was of great appeal to my colleagues. All the waitresses were fresh from Dublin, leprechaun-cute, and we always tipped them at least twenty-five percent. It was all going on someone’s expense account anyway, and the Guinness was always exactly the right temperature. I managed to squeeze an interesting couple of years out of the job before it dawned on me that I now knew approximately everything there was to know about book publishing that was interesting at an intellectual level, and from here on out all I had to look forward to was decades of filling tiny cells with meaningless (to me) numbers and drinking coffee with that powdered crap instead of milk. I’d get so tired I’d slump down in my chair sometimes and take a nap under my desk. I liked it down there. I’d always liked those little secret spaces, those cozy little microworlds that make you feel warm and safe and just generally exempt from things. I kept telling myself I only had to keep up this charade for another thirty-five or forty years, then I could start enjoying my sunroom and my attenuated wrinkles and the spectacular library I’d amassed in my time at the publishing house where technically we got a 70% discount but in practice could take whatever we wanted. Unfortunately, reading books was about the last thing I wanted to do with my free time anymore. About the only thing I did seem to want to do anymore was to go inside my skull and dream. At least I wasn’t alone. I had a small network of friends in the City, most of whom I’d known since high school. None of us had been real close back then, but now that we were all suffering in more or less the exact same ways, we found solace in each other’s company. Adam worked at a real estate agency that seemed to own half of New York. Rachel was working at a publishing house too, though it was a more academic house than mine and she swore she was making even less money than I was, which seemed impossible, or if not impossible then violent. At least she got to attend academic conferences all around the country, while I thrilled to go to Barnes and Noble’s head office in midtown every other month. Gavin worked on Wall Street for a while, putting in ninety hours a week


sometimes and living right next door to the office so that he could literally collapse into his bed. He burned out in something like eight months and was now living off his savings and practicing hot yoga. The group of us met every Sunday afternoon for breakfast at a diner on Sixth Avenue. We’d drink coffee and eat waffles with strawberries or bananas, maybe some sausage or bacon on the side, and either bitch about our jobs for a few hours or not mention them at all. We’d talk about how much better things had been in high school, about school plays, about how we’d once thought we were going to be magnificent, well-laid people one day. Adam had planned on being an actor. He’d been an extra in a movie once. He made us watch it. “That’s my ear!” he said. “It’s a fine ear,” I told him. “It does everything an ear can be expected to do.” But Rachel had a different opinion. “The ear’s depressing,” she said, and then she pulled out one of her many quotes from Fight Club: “We are the middle children of history, raised by television to believe that someday we’ll be millionaires and movie stars and rock stars, but we won’t. And we’re just learning this fact…So don’t fuck with us.” The room fell silent for a few minutes. What she’d said felt both really true and really corny—true because it was, corny because she’d said it like that. Then I tried out an idea on them: “What do you guys say we all quit our jobs and just hole up somewhere and relax for the rest of our lives?” I’d been thinking these sorts of thoughts since my annual review a few days before. I’d gotten my two-percent raise but in exchange had had to suck down an outsized helping of humble pie. My boss was right of course: I wasn’t at my desk enough. I did everything I could to avoid being available to him—refilling my shitty coffee, hanging out in my coworkers’ offices dismembering one another with Photoshop, ransacking the take shelves for books I might or might not ever get around to reading. It was proper that those rectangles in my grids were called “cells” because more and more I was feeling imprisoned by them. Come to think of it, they were one of few small spaces I didn’t find cozy in the least. “Sure,” Adam said. “I mean really, aren’t you guys as tired as I am? Wouldn’t it be nice to just quit the rat race and go hole up somewhere and just be?” “And where do you suppose we’re gonna hole up rent-free?” Adam asked. “The park?” Gavin suggested.

29 “Too cold,” I said. “And there’s the murder thing,” Rachel added. “You’re talking about what?” Adam asked. “Like a commune?” “I guess that’s what it would be. I don’t know. I was just thinking we take our clothes off and lie in a heap in some room somewhere.” “Why do we have to take off our clothes?” Rachel asked. “To be in our natural state.” “What about food?” Adam said. “Food’s natural enough,” I replied. “Who’s paying for it, I mean?” “We’d have to get up and go to the bathroom sometimes,” Rachel said. “Are we having sex?” Gavin asked. “Or just lying there?” “I’m thinking we’re just lying there,” I said. “The idea is that we just chill together, stop being creatures of want and let our egos just sort of melt into one.” I wasn’t real worried about the sex thing. We’d known each other since we were fourteen. Had there been any attractions among us, I was pretty sure they’d have outed by now. That’s why hanging out with them was such a relief—there was no ambition there. “We’d smell,” Adam said. “We’d have to take showers.” “So what if we smell?” I said. “We’ll smell like ourselves.” “We’ll fart,” Rachel said. “We’ll vow never to hold one in,” I said. “Do you think we’d get lonely at all?” Adam asked. “How would we get lonely? We’d be together all the time. It’s staring into our computer screens eight hours a day that we ought to be getting lonely.” “Yeah, but if we’re gonna become one, then we might find we get lonely sometimes, like we want to be more than just one?” “You know what,” I said, “Why don’t we forget the whole thing?” But Gavin countered: “I think we should try it. On a small scale. Say we start out with just a weekend? At least we’d feel like we were trying something different instead of just working for the Man twenty-four seven.” “You’re serious?” I said. “It was your idea,” Gavin replied. “I know, but I don’t know how serious I was.” “Show of hands,” Gavin said.


Four arms shot up. I conceded and threw up one of my own. “So where are we gonna do this?” Gavin asked. “We can’t do it at my place,” I said. “Sick.” Sick was my bleach-blond roommate on the Upper West Side. We’d met through Craigslist and that was the extent of our connection. He was trying to be a model, and he had the looks for it, I guess. He spent most of his time at the gym working on his physique, and our shower was littered with all sorts of acne and exfoliating creams. His real name was Rick, and that’s what I’d called him until for the better part of a year he told me he had pancreatic cancer and then finally admitted he’d been lying. “Why would you lie about something like that?” I asked him, and he never really gave me a satisfactory answer. We hadn’t spoken much since. My own theory is that he’d simply wanted attention and the advertisers weren’t giving him enough. After that I almost hoped he did get cancer. I watched my mother die of cancer, starting with liver spots on her face and steadily spreading until her whole body was the color of an eggplant. She was a big woman, my mother, but when I went to visit her in the hospital, she was scrawnier than I was—and I was eleven. I didn’t really wish cancer on Sick, I guess, but I did hope I could get my own place one day, and some small disease might not be the worst thing that could happen to him. “You know,” Rachel said, “I don’t love that I’m the only female involved in this thing. Would you all mind if I invited my new roommate? She’s rad.” “Fine by me,” I said. Rachel had only been living in her new place in Brooklyn a few weeks, so we’d never met her roommate, whom she’d found, as I’d found mine, on Craigslist. “Okay,” Gavin said, “so when do we do this?” “Next Saturday?” Rachel proposed. “Works for me,” Gavin said. “Me too,” I said. Adam nodded. “Saturday it is then.” I spent the week inside my little cells and The Nose, looking forward to the weekend even more than usual. On Tuesday my boss forwarded me photos of an old Sherman tank he’d just bought for the hell of it, which was weird. It was Wednesday when Rachel e-mailed us to say her roommate was interested. That e-mail was followed by another e-vit-

31 ing us to come by about noon. I RSVP’d that I’d be there and on time, and come Saturday I just about was. Rachel lived in Williamsburg, in a cleverly graffitied warehouse with puppy-sized rats in the hall and no windows. When I got there I knocked on the door and she opened it and said, “Hey.” She was wearing yellow pajamas. I had on corduroys and a sweater. “Am I the first to show?” “I think you’re the last actually.” She led the way to her bedroom, which was roughly the size of a nice elevator. A futon was rolled up in one corner. Otherwise, there was just a shag throw rug, a floor lamp, a dead plant, and a laptop. “Where’s Adam?” I asked. “He flaked on us,” Gavin replied. “His loss,” I said, wondering if that was true. “So it’ll just be the four of us, I guess,” Rachel said, and she proceeded to introduce me to her roommate. To my relief, Judy wasn’t particularly good-looking either. She was big-boned and her neck was wrong. “Judy’s doing a Masters at NYU,” Rachel said. I asked what in and Judy said, “Publishing?” I nodded my head and pretended I didn’t see anything wrong with that. I did intend to be a writer after all and would rely on people like her one day. “We can use my equally pitiful room too if we want,” Judy said, “but Rachel was thinking we’d all better be in the same room or the effect might be lost.” “Agreed,” I said. Rachel was the brave one: “So do you guys wanna start, er…?” We all looked around. My cheeks went hot. There were only four of us, but given the size of the room, we were going to have to be very close to one another. “Who wants to go first?” Rachel asked. “We should all go at the same time,” I said, like some master of ceremonies. “Okay,” Rachel said, “so on the count of three everybody take your clothes off then?” “Could you dim the lights a little?” Judy asked. “I could turn on the lava lamp,” Rachel said. “Perfect,” I said. Rachel turned on the lava lamp and counted down from three


and as the paisley shadows danced along the wall we each began shyly taking our clothes off. We peered through sleeveholes and neckholes to be sure we weren’t the only ones doing it. It took way longer than it ought to have, but at length we all followed through. The girls crossed their arms over their chests and knocked their knees. I told them that went against the rules, and they surrendered as soon as I did. I’m not real bashful about my body. I’m not sure why that is, but I never was. It’s not that I’m real comfortable in it. It may be that I’m so uncomfortable in it that I don’t really see it as being mine particularly and so there’s no shame to be had in exposing it. By contrast, I was a bit bashful about my friends’ bodies. It was weirder than I’d expected seeing them like that. Rachel and Gavin always looked so sophisticated in clothes, but nude like this they looked so, well, naked—sort of hairy and zoological, the only vestige of urbanity left the glasses they (and Judy too—I was the only one without them) refused to take off. Gavin looked about the way I’d expected him to look: stocky and well hung. Rachel was fleshier around her midsection than I’d realized and had some sort of raised scar I knew nothing about and wasn’t going to ask. Judy, on the other hand, looked a touch better to me all of a sudden. I tried not to think. Failing that, I turned my thoughts to the U.S. Open, which was coming up. Also, the difference between a law of contract and a law of tort, which is something my father taught me more than once when I was a kid. “Everybody relaxed?” Gavin asked. “Not really,” Rachel said. “It takes a little time,” I said as if I’d done this before. “Let’s just settle in.” I was right. After a few minutes our conversation took its normal course and we’d all seemed to have forgotten we were naked. We spread out on the floor and began to touch each other incidentally, nothing sexual, just a bumped elbow or somebody’s hair brushing up against my ankle maybe. And then it all went to hell. I heard it before I saw it. Chewy sounds. Gavin and Judy making out with each other like teenagers. He’d been planning it all along probably. A sinister element among us, a fifth column. I shook my head disapprovingly, but then my own manhood asserted itself and Rachel sidled up next to me and began demurely sucking on it. I didn’t fight her. Soon we were all plumbed to one another

33 somehow or other. I flickered between my reality head and my fantasy one. I’d known Rachel for years and never imagined her in this way, but it was kind of weirdly sexy to see her lose control the way she did. Superficially speaking I’d rather have been with Judy than Rachel, the wrongness of her neck notwithstanding, but Gavin was doing Judy already, and quite despite myself I felt an insane primate rage towards him all of a sudden, which was weird because in some way I didn’t care a lick about any of them. Rachel and Judy were sticking their tongues in each other’s mouths while we pounded away at them from behind. I let myself go and didn’t hate it. Judy went nuts, gritted her teeth and came. Gavin gave me a high five and we switched off. Judy instructed me to eat her out, and that’s just what I was doing when Gavin snuck up behind me and, before I had a chance to protest, grabbed me by the love handles and began to intrude on my personal space in a way no one had ever attempted before. Everything went red for a few moments, and then I thrust an elbow into the side of his head. “Fuck, man,” he said. “I thought we were all supposed to melt into one another and shit?” “No sex!” I said, fumbling for my clothes and vowing never again to fall for my own hippy-dippy bullshit. I mean, it wasn’t like I was particularly homophobic or anything, but this was just not what I’d had in mind at all. Utopia was still worlds away.


Author’s Statement This excerpt comes right from the beginning of the "novel" I wrote for my diss (I've adjusted it just slightly so that it'll stand alone). I put "novel" in quotes here because really what I made was something more chimerical than that, a loosely linked story collection with an outsize narrative frame. I was determined to construct a fiction that proceeded less by cause and effect than by the canny juxtaposition and interpenetration of fictional worlds--even in this small excerpt, you'll find me drumming on motifs of penetration and worlds-within-the-world. In fact, one title I considered was The World Inside the World Inside, which I still kind of like. I submitted the diss as Justification Nation, owing to the secular confession service the protagonist goes on to start, though I changed it at some point to Prisoner's Cinema. In the end, the experiment was probably too clever by half, but it allowed me to try out all sorts of things, and there are some salvageable bits here and there. Maybe this is one? I was lucky enough to have Ian MacMillan as my mentor for a time, but he died before I got to my diss. (Here's a tribute I wrote for him: http:// I ended up working with Jeff Carroll, who was supportive and largely hands-off (to be clear, this was just what I needed). I also got a good deal of support, artistic and otherwise, from Steve Canham and Susan Schultz. Here's a short list of thanks (with apologies to anyone I'm leaving out): Tim Denevi, David Odhiambo, Chris Kelsey, Desi Poteet, Tammy Pavich, Joseph Cardinale, Ranjan Adiga, Alexei Melnick, Robbie Shaphard, Ian MacMillan, Steve Canham, Susan Schultz, Jeff Carroll, books, coffee, peanuts, beer.

35 M. Thomas Gammarino is the author of Big in Japan (Chin Music Press 2009) and Jellyfish Dreams (Amazon Kindle Single 2012). His short fiction has appeared in Jack London Is Dead: Contemporary Euro-American Poetry in Hawai‘i, Hawai‘i Review, The New York Tyrant, Dzanc Books' Best of the Web, and Word Riot, among other places. He holds an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School and a Ph.D. in English from UH Mānoa. He has received a Fulbright Fellowship in Creative Writing and the Elliot Cades Award for Literature.


amalia bueno From Gabriela’s Daughters

37 Chewed Up Wrinkled, tough old hag, rolling her own cigars with her big hands under the mango tree. She wraps the spit wet chewed-up leaves around my bleeding small toe.


Home Remedies Take this ginger root, its bite overpowers but is familiar. It clears motion sickness, dissolves blood clots. Slice it thin, swallow, and close your eyes to go home. Take this head of garlic. Salt it, smear the old wives stories of home remedies. Each garlic tear fights infection, salves bruises, soothes cuts, criss crosses bones until the next time he ravages you. Give yourself these green flowers of the sweet onion plant. Crush its petals when the healing starts, keep rubbing until raw skin grows into scars. Share this ampalaya, pluck its bitter fruit and save the seeds to dry. But pull the leaves now, careful. Concoct a home-brewed tea for him.

39 Me and Jurison I was a Rent to Own girl YES when I spread the Colortyme on me and gave him all Payday Loans YES and let Levi’s climb my thighs YES but no more, when Hope Chapel West O‘ahu found out and Waipahu Free Will Baptist, who heard from another and from my mother, who worried about Motherhood Maternity but not for me I said not me. Even though she knew him, Jurie him, YES handsome sweet treat like meat him YES keeps going dental on me, and all over me YES and I mean like YES Smile Dental and Family Dental YES and Gentle Touch Dental. YES darling, I told him no worry about protection. I know all about it YES. But finally I announced this is where The Poke Stop(s). And no I didn’t mean forever YES Because he was on Shaka Auto Repair pilot and I was on high and Lowe’s two or three times a week. I tried so hard. I did the cold turkey YES City of Refuge Christian Church helped YES but not for long, no, because we started up again. And on the point of no return, I mean, all out to the Max’s (The House That Chicken Built) and we promised each other YES to just continue meeting and pulling YES so now we Lazy Skate in time and rhyme, and Jurie he only want to, he only want to Highway Inn into me forever and ever YES but in a Safeway kind of way YES. So Jurie YES that’s his real name, who is like my Don Quijote and Foodland forever and ever, and my man for all Times YES he feels my underarms all deodorant Longs Drugs and puts his mouth on me like mad YES and breathing hard that I need to see Perlita Lampitoc, M.D. who refused


to give me anything, but I found some, YES on the side streets at Elena’s, Thelma’s, Kristen’s, Jimmy’s and Flo’s and even at Tanioka’s YES, last name, last time amen YES thank you God! They and everybody else already heard YES but all of them decided to help and YES did they ever. After that me and Jurie, we were okay for awhile but we had to Poke Stop again YES but only for a little bit YES cause me and Jurie, me and Jurie can’t help it no. No can help and nine months later YES I have a boy named Jurison’s and Jurie’s not around much now but I don’t care because next time I want a girl YES. I already got a name for her Juridette for a girl.

41 When Doris Tells a Story This is the way I heard it, so this is the way I’m going tell it to both of you. Maybe you heard something else, but this is what my cousin told me and he wouldn’t lie. You want to hear it or not? Okay. You know the Peralta family, right? Up the street, the big house on the left? Yeah, them. Well, one day, all the aunties and uncles were in the living rom. All nine of them. And you couldn’t tell that all of them were there because you couldn’t hear them. Nothing. You would think that the room was empty because it was so quiet. But there they were, some sitting on the couch, others on the love seats, and the rest in mismatched chairs pulled up around the coffee table. Yeah, I know. They could have sat in the dining room instead, meeting around the huge dining table, but all the party food was piled on top of that table, yeah? So never mind, stop interrupting me. Eh, you like hear the story or what? Okay, then. So where was I? In the living room. Okay, there was this silence that hung in the middle of the circle they formed. The silence was so thick you could walk up to it and break it with your hands if you wanted to. I no kid you, brah. It was that bad. So they were all waiting for the silence to be broken. But nobody spoke up. The oldest sister, Maria Conchita Peralta, was looking at her feet. She had her hands on her lap, her fingers all intertwined li’ dat, kinda calm but kinda expecting something, too. One of her brothers was staring ahead. His eyes were fixated at the large antique clock, you know which one I talking about? What you mean you don’t know? You been in the house, right? The big black clock, the one with the black face and white Roman numerals and the skinny white hands. Yeah, that one. Where the hands look like your palms, like human hands with the palms open and face up, the fingers pointing to the numbers. Yeah, I know it’s kinda spooky because it looks like your hands stay cut off and the buggahs stay moving by themselves. Anyway, stop interrupting me. You like hear the story or what? Okay, okay, I’ll just tell it then. You would think that on this day, on this real special occasion, that at least the main family members would be happy and stuff. But no. My cousin told me that all nine brothers and sisters had something important to talk about. But they wasn’t gon talk until they were ready. So I guess they wasn’t ready yet, yeah?


The Daily Head Count Count six pairs of socks, six panties, four shirts, four pants you are allowed. Count the eight numbers on your inmate ID. Count the minutes it takes to line up for head count. Count the countless times you feel regret, shame and anger. Count seven seconds before the steel door clicks and lets you into the cafeteria. Count the basketball bounces at mandatory recreation. Count the punches to the face Dawnie received last night. Count the days LaRain is in lockdown for fighting. Count the days until Easter. Count the weeks until Thanksgiving. Count the months until Christmas. Count the days until Mother’s Day. Count the times your arms held your daughters. Count the pretend candles on their imaginary birthday cakes. Count on your grandmother. Count on God. Count the one cigarette you bum off and repack into three. Count three baby birds that nest in the razor wire. Count on seeing the monkeypod tree way beyond the perimeter fence. Count the three hundred fifty-two words you write in your journal. Count your blessings. Count the hours until Children’s Day visits start. Count two hours later when Children’s Day visits end. Count on your left hand the number of visits you’ve had from your family. Count every head count at lights out at twenty-one hundred hours. Count every night you don’t cry. Count every night you do cry. Count on bed space opening up at Ka Hale Ho‘āla Hou No Nā Wāhine. Count on the good graces of the Watch Commander. Count every moment before you fall asleep. Count the years until your next parole hearing.

43 Time Served

Although some offenders will The will of the public

remain in prison for life, wants the body that’s caught

the majority will serve to stay in prison and jail

their sentence and be released or [re]leased to a corporation

and returned back home to serve time out of sight, out of home

to their communities. but their children, their families, have served time, too.


[re]Leased Governor John D. Waihee III tried to save the State of Hawai‘i from another lawsuit so he sent 75 inmates out-of-state. That worked out well. A year later 300 more inmates were shipped out. Then, for 18 years the next three governors exported more bodies. [re]Leased them from double or triple bunking in a built-for-one cell. [re]Leased them from blood and roots. [re]Leased them from salt Hawaiian, salt tears, salt ocean. [re]Leased them to faraway places where low wages low overhead, low everything were plentiful. Embraced by depressed economies, the commodities Bodies banished to Crystal City, Texas. Appleton, Minnesota. Newton, Texas. Whiteville, Tennessee. Brush, Colorado. Wheelright, Kentucky. Florence, Arizona. Sayre, Oklahoma. Kickapoo, Oklahoma. Tutwiler, Mississippi. Eloy, Arizon. Littleton, Texas.

in rented beds slept.

45 At Cebu Pool Hall When Mrs. Sato says our shorts too boy-crazy tight, we cruise Hotel Street anyway and sway in front the manongs, the real men muscled brown arms in undershirts keeping cool. The gold-toothed one winks and I pretend not to see as we turn and stare at starched white shirts. We sway left at a Navy man whose liquor breath whispers to school girl me and I blush at his hey beautiful drawl. We pull into the pool hall. They drink, then lurk for the gambling happening day and night, late. Mommy asks you want in now, or what? We hold the front down, the pool balls strike red white blue they all hit straight. Mommy leaves Bill Haley and the Comets so we rock round the clock and let me go, lover. We sing our hearts, we cash our dreams, we sell our island sin. We wanna salute statehood and dance off this rock. We do the honi honi, talk good English, make aloha sexy body thin. Whistling between pointy yellow teeth, the ensign slips me some gin. He say he take me away see the wide, wide world. We laugh at “how wide do you like it, sailor.” I’m jazzing his ukulele strumming his A major cool as a pina colada in June. We talk, we walk, we drink, da-drink-a-drink-a-drink, until it’s time we swoon at Aloha Tower moon, ride a high tide life, and I tell him I’m dying, stuck on this rock, flippin’ on men, gonna shrivel up soon, real soon.


Balik = return


Balikbayan: Home

In the 1990s, a different breed of balikbayan, mostly young college age BAFs (Born Again Filipinos) longed to return to the homeland--but can you return if you’ve never set foot there . . . and if you don’t have a past or space in the homeland to “claim” how can you “reclaim” it? They went and returned, and experienced balikbayan culture shock in the Philippines, but also balikbayan reentry shock when they returned to the United States.

3. savior of the Philippine economy, like the OCWs.

Q: How is the balik to Filipinos? A: Because they ne

25 American-made Coach Non-dairy creamer Non-d Cheap and ugly but new b Mango cucumber hand so Skin whitening cream and PERSONAL SIZE TOILE PERSONAL SIZE TOILE PERSONAL SIZE TOILE PERSONAL SIZE TOILE CORNED BEEF CORNE SHEETS PILLOWCASE STYLE QUILTS MADE W 3 PAIRS USEDS SNEAK COFFEEMAKER, CROC Toaster, Old Betamax VCR SPAM SPAM SPAM SPA SPAM SPAM SPAM SPA Used but in good conditio McDonald’s happy meal t Barbie dolls why? barbie c Knapsacks new, knapsack SPAM SPAM SPAM SPA

propagator of martial law propaganda.

the homeland. Balikbayan, noun.1. Coined by

the th he M Marcos arcos regime regiime in in 19733 for for U.S

brought by the homeland returnee to


Bayan = homeland

eland Returnee

1 more can of SPAM fits here

ever leave home without it.

h brand coin purses, 1 Coach handbag for the matriarch dairy creamer Non-dairy creamer Non-dairy creamer boys shoes, cheap and ugly men’s slippers, Bayer aspirin ap, Cherry ginger lime anti-bacterial cleanser, Vitamins d oil, Skin lightening lotion, Skin whitening moisturizer ETRIES FROM ALL THE HOTELS YOU STAYED AT ETRIES FROM ALL THE HOTELS YOU STAYED AT ETRIES FROM ALL THE HOTELS YOU STAYED AT ETRIES FROM ALL THE HOTELS YOU STAYED AT ED BEEF; VIENNA SAUSAGE VIENNA SAUSAGE ES PILLOWS MORE SHEETS HAWAYANOWITH ALOHA PRINT SCRAPS TEE SHIRTSSSSSSS KERS 5 PAIRS NEW SNEAKERS 2 PUMPS 1 COMB CK POT, IRISH SPRING SOAP, HOLMES SARDINES R, Pencils, Folder Paper, Lots of wide-ruled notebooks AM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM AM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM on children’s clothes, like new women’s dresses, towels toys, beanie babies, beanie babies, beanie babies, babies clothes yuck small metal race cars in all colors (old) ks home made, knapsacks still good, knapsacks ugly AM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM SPAM

the motherland and witness its vast improvements

kbayan box like American Express

Balikbayan: humungous box stuffed with all

S.-based Filipinos returning to

attributed to martial law. 2. unwittin

kinds of pasalubong and omiyage


Author’s Statement My work is rooted in a place-based narrative that negotiates identity politics within migration, violence, displacement, women, incarceration, and other social contexts. Gabriela’s Daughters, my thesis and poetry collection, is comprised of three sections: Home Remedies, Time Served, and (dis)Placed. The eight poems included here reflect a sampling from each section. The most difficult part of my thesis was articulating a poetics of why I write and what my work brings to the range of writings from Hawaiʻi. Although the jury is still out on definitive answers to those questions, I am thankful for Susan Schultz and Craig Santos Perez, brilliant teachers and poets themselves, who pushed me to dig for my ars poetica, shape the lyric impulse, and craft the (sometimes non-)narrative underpinnings of my every line, breath, and break. Rounding out my thesis committee were Craig Howes and Lilia Santiago, whose enlightening classes, Cultural Studies and Ilokano Literature in Translation, respectively, helped to inform my work. My creative writing cohort included five other students—Donald Carreira Ching, Donovan Kūhiō Colleps, Kapena Landgraf, Doug Neagoy, and Cheri Nagashima—with whom I explored the meta of the meta-commentary of fiction and poetry in Frank Stewart’s Foundations of Creative Writing class. A fiction workshop taught by Shawna Yang Ryan added Kevin Won, Lyn Brown, and Sara Young to my writing community. Several attempts to form outside-of-class writing groups were initially successful, but could not be sustained for various reasons. Others who suggested edits or continue to help transform my thesis into a manuscript include Claire Gearen, Lynn Young, R. Zamora Linmark, and Rajiv Mohabir.

49 Amalia Bueno is an educator, researcher and writer. Born in Manila and raised in Honolulu, she is occasionally lured by the lava and snow of Hawai‘i Island. Her poetry and fiction have been published in various literary journals, anthologies and magazines. She will begin the Ph.D. in English program at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in Fall 2014.


Anjoli Roy From Without Being Told

51 “Find any characters today, ogho?” Chandrani is standing on the threshold of the front door, keys in hand. Hearing the voice of her husband, Deepak, she considers turning around. She could escape back down the stairs of the apartment building, across the half-block to the subway station, and down to the train platform without a word. She steps inside, toward Deepak’s overeager voice, which he’s flung at her from the kitchen. “Yeah, ogho,” she replies, using the same term of affection they use for each other. “Those two kids and the middle-aged man were on the A train again.” She can’t see him, but she knows he is at the stove, stirring something. A metal spoon scrapes the bottom of their deep copper pot. Her skin prickles. She drops her keys on the chipped turquoise end table by the front door. “You know those guys, right? The ones who do the dance routine and then the man throws one of the boys up at the ceiling? Everybody thinks the kid hits his head or whatever, but he only smacks the roof with his hand, mid-flip. That crash gets ‘em every time.” She yawns, directs her words to the buckled hardwood floor. “The crew always makes out with a whole heap of money, especially if that kid acts dazed.” She stretches her arms up over her head and rolls her neck from side to side, pulls against the knot forming between her shoulder blades. “I got a pretty good draft, I think.” She sighs, locks the deadbolt behind her, tosses her soggy, snowdrenched coat on their queen-sized bed. In front of the full-length mirror that hangs next to their bedroom door, she pulls back the heavy plank of her waist-length black hair and scowls at her reflection; sucks in, then forcefully distends her slight paunch. Rubbing at the dark patches under her eyes, she smacks her face to bring some color to her yellowed, sunken cheeks. She was pretty once, wasn’t she? “You can read it if you want.” She rounds the hallway to the kitchen and leans in to kiss him hello just as she has every day for the past five years. “Your subway stories will make us rich in no time, huh, ogho?” His boyish hair, which he refuses to cut, roguishly falls in his eyes. His beard pricks out of his smooth, dark brown skin. His concentration pulls his eyebrows into a tight V. Still handsome.


His skin tastes salty. She wipes her mouth on her sleeve. “Doubt that.” She shakes the papers at him. Deepak glances up at her, annoyed. “My hands are kinda full right now—maybe later.” He smiles his best salesman smile at her. “You’ve published one good story so far, ogho. I’m sure once the collection is out, the money’ll be rolling in.” “It’s not really like that, ogho.” “It’s just about the fans, right?” He winks at her, and she is momentarily charmed. He pecks her on the cheek, watches her for a while. “You’re cute.” She smirks at him, then busts into her best tap dance impersonation, complete with jazz hands, shoulder shrugs, and wide eyes. He grunts, looks away from her. “What about the mail? Any fan letters for the infamous nom de plume, Rani Ray?” She freezes, mid fake performance. After a small national magazine published her first short story, accompanied by a bio that included the name of the local newspaper where she works as a freelance journalist, Chandrani has received a few letters under the name Rani Ray. Her boss insisted that anything referring to her under that name be forwarded directly to her home address, as “a creative writer’s fan mail does not belong on a journalist’s desk.” Since then, a few letters have found their way to the narrow mail cubby in the lobby of their building. More than one of these letters has included corrections to various details in her story. A more accurate description of the wait for the A train. A printed schedule of the 1 train with penned annotations on what really happened on that train, on which performers actually frequent that line. As if she doesn’t commute on those trains every day. As if her stories aren’t based directly on her experiences. She is a trained journalist, knows what it means to get and respect the facts, but this is what she gets for writing fiction. If she published them as nonfiction, they’d be “her truth.” Still, the small blip of fame from the publication of her first “Subway Story”—a fictional series she’s been working on about everyday occurrences in Manhattan’s underground—has made enough information available for the motivated reader to get a letter to her. Including the one that’s in her pocket. “Nope. Just the electric bill,” she says as nonchalantly as possible. “I’ll pay it tomorrow, if you cut the check tonight.” You Doberman, she almost adds but doesn’t.

53 Deepak guards his money. Since she makes a pittance as a freelancer, the two basically rely on his income from his position as a dealer at a mid-size hedge fund on Wall Street. Her income is hers, what she can spend without Deepak’s permission. She remembers a secret he revealed to her when they first married when both were still eager to love somewhere between dinnertime and morning showers. The two started off commiserating about how they’d been teased in their predominantly white schools—Chandrani’s in California, Deepak’s at the tip of Long Island—the “mud food” that their classmates teased them for bringing for lunch, the 7-11 jokes and bobble-headed service men. Neither had siblings to commiserate with. Where this teasing drove Chandrani into herself—she and her father weren’t members of any South Asian American communities; she knew no Indian people in her largely white community—Deepak developed a dual identity. While he attended Hindu religious festivals with his parents, he begged until they put up winking Christmas lights and purchased a plastic tree to fill their picture window during the winter holidays. A good boy at home, he told her with giddy enthusiasm about how he’d sold drugs to his classmates in his Long Island high school. Just weed, though, and he’d never smoked the stuff himself, he added quickly. He only sold to get the “guidos”—his word—off his back; to convince them that he shouldn’t be forced, like the few other Asians around, to do their math homework. He bought what he resold from other boys who lived around the way from him, a couple of privileged white kids who wanted street cred. Kids just like him that way, Chandrani thought. When he told her it was about the money and the respect, Chandrani understood why he had never finished his BA. Wall Street didn’t require a degree, and Deepak had a good salary—and a good excuse to strut around every day in the three-piece suits he wore so well. Still, she wondered what he, otherwise a momma’s boy and an only child at that, had leveraged to get his family off his back about dropping out of school. Leaning over the contents of the pot that Deepak is stirring, Chandrani smells. “Lamb curry—my favorite.” She forces a smile. She feels his body tense beside her. She knows how long it takes him to make these meals, but isn’t feeling up to faking the glee he seems to expect from her. She walks alongside the rim of the counter, does her best not to notice the stacks of empty “conventional” yogurt and meat containers


that he has strewn here and there. She fingers the lamb’s slimy Styrofoam container, still bloody from the meat. Her throat tightens. The walls of a familiar argument rise up around her, but she decides not to start. She doesn’t feel like sparring with him when this letter, hot in her pocket, has already unsettled her. Deepak tracks Chandrani’s line of sight, picks up the heavy kitchen knife he’s used to chop up the meat. When she looks up at him, he is holding the blade to his throat, a dare-me look on his face. “Jesus, ogho, that’s not funny.” He gestures to the food containers she’s just been eyeing. “Don’t start with me, okay, ogho? I can’t take it.” “I wasn’t going to. Stop being crazy.” “Oh, relax, it’s not like I’m actually going to kill myself,” he laughs at the stove, looking every bit as unstable as he is trying not to sound. Chandrani edges away from him, slightly. He chucks the knife across the counter. “Look, it is Valentine’s Day,” he says, smiling broadly. “I thought it’d be nice if we both got what we wanted. I got you some chocolates.” He jerks his head toward a bright red paper heart, sealed in plastic. “Thanks, ogho.” Chandrani tears off the wrapping, her fingers feeling wooden and shaky. “Why she’s okay with eating that crap and not regular food, I’ll never know,” he mutters. “Crap is crap and food should be the best food,” Chandrani singsongs under her breath with a laugh. She stuffs a handful of quarter-sized chocolates into her mouth. The candy congeals into a chocolaty slime. She smiles at him, shows browned teeth. “Don’t fill up,” he mutters at the stove. She grabs another handful of candies before pushing the box away. When they were first married, she caught him tearing up when he’d bent over the stove for half a day and she’d filled up on crackers. She’d been too hungry to wait, she whined, but she admitted to herself that she also wanted to push him, find out the limit to all his niceness, which had begun to feel too much like benevolence. When she found that limit, she couldn’t be trusted not to touch the boundary. Was it her fault that he was so easy to upset? A whiny dog, constantly following her around and yipping at her heels, asking to be kicked. Yet, at the same time, she’s felt a

55 twinge of guilt—don’t they want the same thing? A happy marriage? That elusive term, “family”? Babies to raise and teach and learn from? Yet, the way he submits to her makes her hate him a little too. Him, so eager to please. “The Sens want to do dinner soon, by the way. It’s been a while.” Chandrani shrugs, edges away. “Ogho, I have to tell them something.” “Maybe I’m not up to seeing their perfect little life, okay? Tell them what you want.” “They’re going to think it’s odd if we keep putting them off.” “So what? Why do you care so much about what other people think, ogho?” “Why don’t you care at all?” he barks. She changes the subject, remembers that Deepak went to the gym that morning. “How was your workout this morning? Did Charles box with you?” “Gym was fine. Charles connected with me a little too hard, though.” Deepak points to the ripe orange lump on his chin. “I told him if we weren’t boys I might have to kick his ass for real next time.” He flexes his muscles at Chandrani. She rolls her eyes. While Chandrani likes her husband’s good looks—she enjoys introducing him to people and watching their eyebrows shoot up in astonishment that she, in all her greyness, has managed to land and keep such a handsome guy— she wonders, sometimes, where the power is beneath that muscle. She shakes her head. “That’s what you get for boxing, right?” She fishes out a potato from the large pot that Deepak is adding spices to. “I’ve gotta release the tension somehow—” “Why are you adding spices now? They won’t have any time to flavor the meat.” “Here we go again, ogho. I always cook like this. These are the products I like.” He gestures to the contentious containers. Would he cry? “And now is when I add the spices. Your father may have cooked in a different way, but this is my way.” He grits his teeth, eyes glassy, and chucks the metal spoon at the stove. He leaves the room. Chandrani stares off into the dark waters of the curry bubbling before her. “Now don’t look at me like that. This is extra virgin olive oil—


nothing heavy,” she hears a familiar voice say. She inclines her head toward her father’s voice and smiles. She is at home with him. Tucked into the southern California foothills, the house is exactly as it was when she left to go to college nearly a decade before. On their acre property, Chandrani, raised without television and with few friends, sought refuge in her father with a rare affection. “Yeah, Baba. But it doesn’t really matter when you’re putting in so much.” “Geez! Between your demands and my herbologist’s forbidding me to cook with salt, my food will never taste the same again.” His hands are strong, paw-like; the nails are thick claws, blunt from working in the garden. He rotates the simmering eggplants one at a time with precision, being sure to turn them just as each side of the cubes brown. Even in a thin cotton tank top, he is flushed from the heat of the stove. His dark brown skin shimmers with the light thrown from a high flame; sweat glitters across his forehead. His graying beard is a thick trim on his otherwise soft jaw line. His eyes dart back and forth over the stove, taking in everything with the precision of an animal tracking prey. Chandrani smiles at him. “Eggplants need this amount of oil. They soak up every bit and only then will they turn brown.” Chandrani drags her big toe across a gritty river of grout between the smooth tiles beneath her. Math people are so precise about everything. Everything is a measurement. An exact distance. A formula. “But at least a little bit of salt is something I can add later—the oil I cook with my food can’t be added at the end!” “I’m sorry, Baba. I just get touchy watching you cook.” She recites with equal parts fear and pride, “You are the only male member of our family to live to your age.” The phrase is one Chandrani has repeated for as long as she can remember. Having grown up in a drought of extended family, she sprouted roots in the cool shade of her father’s canopy, her existence inextricably linked with his. This reminding is a game she likes to play—one that brings to mind how important her father is to her, and inspiring a sense of dread regarding the magnitude of the hole he will, one day, leave behind. He has told her more than once that most men on his side of the family pass around age fifty, an age her father surpassed some time ago. “It’s a bit late to waste time worrying like that!” He smiles, locking heartening eyes over his wire-rimmed glasses with her worried ones. His

57 wispy eyebrows, black and laced with gray, form a kind, concerned line. She ignores him and jokes, “How would I eat without you?” “Yeah, sure.” He plays along and casually pats his belly. “You feed yourself now, all the way over in New York.” “I do eat in New York, it’s true,” she admits. “Deepak cooks for me. I seem to have found the only two Indian men in the world who cook!” “I imagine there are more of us out there than you think,” he says to the browning eggplant. He will never approve of my decision, she thinks. Then, he says cheerily, “We may grow up being shooed out of the kitchen, but we know what it takes to make food that’s good to eat!” “Maybe. But Deepak never makes anything like this.” She gestures to the expanse of food before her: a hot pot of yellow dahl bubbles softly with a few red peppers; a fan of fried papadum stand upright for her to munch on before the meal begins; next is a cauliflower-potatoes-and-peas dish whose name Chandrani always forgets; and on the stove is something she didn’t have during the years she was vegetarian: macher jhol, with thick pieces of steaming white fish to which her father is adding those browned eggplant cubes. This food, her ancestors. Her only link to her father’s country. Chandrani knows that though he won’t admit it, her father has scoured his garden, the organic grocery, and the farmers’ market that comes to the neighborhood once a week on the backs of trucks, rolling in thick clouds from the ocean and dust countries—all for her. “Seriously, Baba. You’re spoiling me.” “Anything for my darling daughter.” He looks at her over his glasses again. “This is an occasion, and we must welcome it with open arms. Hello, occasion! Come in!” Her heart contracts at her father’s habitually strange turn of phrase. Since her mother left them when Chandrani was small, she has known her father to be a recluse. The quantity of food he’s capable of preparing is Chandrani’s only evidence of the parties she believes her parents must have thrown in the early years of their marriage before she was born. Yet her father, alone, is the way she knows him: leaving the house only to go to the university to counsel mathematics Ph.D. candidates; spending most of his time at home, nursing his garden amid all the plants that he’s silly enough, Chandrani thinks, to name.


The thought of him at home alone now, trudging to and from an empty house, is too much. Chandrani scratches his back. “Oh, yes. That’s nice.” He crosses his arms on top of his gentle paunch, rounding his shoulders and arching his back slightly. He scrunches up his face so that all of his features pucker around his nose. She looks at him like this—needing a shave, sweat clinging to his thin cotton shirt, and thinks about how her father is a bear. He is a good Indian, loving lamb and mangoes that drip down his chin but he belongs out in a cold river, clawing at salmon and ripping off their heads with his mouth, or pounding across dry land and shaking the wet out of his fur. Or rubbing his back on some tree. A bear. A good bear that makes you feel right at home. “Well I’m so glad that you were able to get to me today, even if it’s only for a short time.” “Me too, Baba,” she says. She feels Deepak reenter the room before she sees him. Perhaps he has been standing there all along. “Smells good. The potatoes are still crunchy though. Maybe a few more minutes?” “That’s what I was planning on.” His voice is curt. Chandrani feels him watching her, sees how his lips are pressed into a thin line. She bristles. “So how was your day?” She walks to the room that acts as both a living and dining room. Glancing back at Deepak, who is now jabbering on about work and returns, to her consternation, shaking orange, burgundy, and brown spices into the food, Chandrani hurries out of his sight and removes from her trouser pocket a sweaty wad of cash that she shoves in between a stack of shoe boxes on the hall closet’s floor. Slowly, she takes out from her pocket the letter she—Rani Ray—received today, and double-checks the return address to Honolulu, Hawai‘i. She shoves the letter deep into the recesses of the closet. Walking to the living room, she breathes deeply, rolls her head to loosen up that knot, now pulsing in her back like a second heartbeat. Deepak hasn’t noticed. “Come over here, will you?” She walks over to him, slow as a begrudging child, makes a “what?” face up at him when she reaches the stove.

59 He cups her face in his hands. “You okay, ogho?” he asks, making that concerned-doctor-to-terminally-ill-patient face that annoys her the most, his head cocked to the side. She steps back, pulling her head out of his annoyingly gentle hands, fights the urge to knock his head vertical again. “Yes, I’m fine. Gawd.” “Is it time to give notice at work yet?” He looks at her, smiling now, his eyes suddenly watery. “It’s been more than a month since your last period, right? Should we take a test?” “I was spotting a few days ago, but I guess I’m usually about 35 days every other month. Maybe we should wait a few more days?” “Yah, but that was last month.” “Oh, yah. Guess you’re right.” Chandrani tries to fade out of the room. Why does he keep closer track of her cycles that she does? “Do we have any more tests left from that last pack?” She shakes her head. “I’ll pick some up tomorrow.” He is all smiles. “Sounds good, ogho. Let’s be sure to do it before I go away for the conference. If it’s good news, I won’t have to go.” He smiles broadly. She hasn’t seen him light up like this is a while. Maybe ever. “What do you mean you won’t have to go?” She sounds as disappointed as she is. What does it mean that she so looks forward to having the apartment to herself? The smile melts from his face. “I—I just mean if it’s good news, I’ll cancel,” he stammers. “So we can be together.” His 120-watt smile returns and he pulls her back to him, steps behind her, puts his hands protectively on her lower belly, hugs her so tightly she can barely breathe. “Maybe it’s finally our time.” “Yah. Maybe.” She pecks him on the cheek, disentagles herself, then heads to the living room, prodding at her admittedly sore breasts. Could she be pregnant? The thought lights up in her mind. She smiles her best smile at Deepak, who is rambling on again about work, and she, once again, isn’t listening. A baby could change everything. It could be a path to a new life. A way to have real love. It could also be the biggest anchor of all. She runs her fingers across the beloved face of her marbled-wood dining-room table and sighs. “—and I just told him, ‘Mike, I’m a trader. You’ve gotta start treating me like one, one of these days!’”


Chandrani snaps back into focus, heads back to the kitchen. “That’s terrible,” she says, picking up from Deepak’s tone that it is. “So you two still aren’t getting along?” “Does it sound like we’re getting along? After an incident like that, how could we?” Chandrani shuffles back into the kitchen, searches through the cabinets for the candles they put on the table for special occasions. “Would you like a glass of wine?” she asks, taking a long swig from the bottle when Deepak’s back is turned.


Author’s Statement Originally, this chapter was the first in the story, which has had a sandwich structure (in three parts, the novel starts with present action/a moment of crisis; flashes back to the past that explains the events leading up to the crisis in the second section; and then the climax arrives in the third and final section, which returns us to the present). I am currently toying with a linear storyline, which would mean that this chapter would fall somewhere closer to the middle of the story, but the sandwich structure still feels more appealing to me. So, let's just say that this chapter is currently the first chapter in the novel. S. Shankar was my thesis chair and continues to inspire me, both in his creative and critical writing. He was a tremendous guide in helping me to wade through this story and commit it to the page. While I continue to wrestle with this text, now going on four years since I graduated, I am so grateful for the work that I was able to accomplish under Shankar's tutelage. I am also indebted to Craig Howes and Uzma Aslam Khan, who were on my committee and also provided valuable feedback on this project. In addition to S. Shankar, Craig Howes, and Uzma Aslam Khan, vital members of my creative writing community here at UHM included my classmates Kenneth Quilantang Jr., Christina Low (now Dwight), and Amanda Cole. I am so very thankful to have shared creative writing spaces and words with these talented and generous writers. We continued to exchange work with each other after graduation, both on our theses and on shorter work, and I remain grateful for each of them. I am also incredibly blessed by a community of writers here at UHM that continues to grow. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I want to give thanks for my family, who has, with patience and love, supported the writing of this fledgling story and all of my floppy attempts to commit versions of our truths to the page throughout the years. You all are my veriests.


Anjoli Roy writes creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Her work has appeared in The Big Stupid Review, Brownstone Magazine, Diverse Voices Quarterly, A Literary Review for Writers Abroad, Fiction365, Frontier Psychiatrist, Hawai‘i Review, Hawaii Women’s Journal, Midwest Literary Magazine, Vagabondage Press’s Love Notes, and The West Fourth Street Review. In 2010, she earned her MA in English and creative writing from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, where she is currently pursuing her Ph.D.



Jade M. Sunouchi From Skin of Yellow Flowers

65 Aster funnels down a shaft—a skin of yellow flowers, sallow veins, rags of papier-mâché. She surfaces among bloated whitefish—eyeless, pulpous— their bones trail glands in stitches. She floats beside discolored roaches, baile folklorico dolls of corn husks, mangled feathers. She sees splintered currents scalp flesh from a cracked pomegranate and other discards. She feels clasped hands wither to whitewashed polyps scrubbing her unbound skin to sand. *





She falls through a sieve of ashes and fish bones, surfaces among rags balled in fists. Overhead rocks slip. The inner pulse of a shadowed community resonates. *





Steeped in yellow liquid, Aster flails to keep afloat. The fluid is sour and bloodshot, streaming white lipids paper dolls thin husks plastic shells insect trails orange rinds splintered stone. Her skin burns. She balls under loose strings, returns to the womb. *





When fluid recedes Aster finds cages sculpted from human bones. They hang like lanterns, offer scraps of cartilage and pencil shavings. Each cage is marked “TURISTA” followed by a series of 0s and 1s. They lock away female dolls, bleeding hearts, stuffed hummingbirds, human remains. *





La serpiente is headless above her tunic of flayed human skin. She emerges on hind feet from the backbone of a cactus. Smaller las serpientes with lidless eyes dangle from her waist. Her legs are interlaced eagle talons and plumes emblematic of the sun. She wears flayed skin of women. Sacrificial hearts and hands hang from her collar. She bears the turtle shell of childbirth on her back and a human skull on her stomach.


In recesses of a talavera wall, la serpiente curls—sallow like dead fish eyes. She coils in abyss of majolica earthenware. She wretches green foamy acid, turns in her bout of turista.


Author’s Statement Skin of Yellow Flowers is my first attempt to write from four weeks of firsthand exploration in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Under the influence of Alice Notley’s The Descent of Alette, Harryette Mullen’s Trimmings, Carole Maso’s Ava, and Lyn Hejinian’s The Language of Inquiry, I wrote a dream-like sequence in which the natural world has a pronounced presence, hand-sewn dolls come to life, and the human becomes more vulnerable. In this narrative poem, Aster, an American tourist, observes the woman-driven aspect of the Mexican market’s economy and wonders about the autonomy these women have, especially women who sell their handmade dolls. She becomes fascinated with the dolls for sale and purchases one. Through Aster’s character, I explore an objectification of the female/ feminine/body and its complexities in San Miguel’s local artisan market and historical culture. This excerpt traces Aster’s fall into the serpent’s belly after hand-sewn dolls have sacrificed her. Aster becomes Mullen’s “decorative scrap” passing through the serpent, giving it symptoms of “turista,” a sickness more severe than indigestion and a metaphorical affliction for the rampant tourism in San Miguel. With deep gratitude, I thank Susan Schultz, Ruth Hsu, Candace Fujikane, Kathy Phillips, Robert Sullivan, Anne Kennedy, Sabrina Favors, Rachel Choy, Jason Clements, Momi Awana, Kai Gaspar, the University of New Orleans MFA low-residency program and its participants, Tinfish Press, and Hawai‘i Review for feeding this and encouraging my writing during the M.A. program at University of Hawai‘i, Mānoa.


Jade M. Sunouchi lives in Honolulu and teaches English at University of Hawai‘i, West O‘ahu. Her poems have appeared in Hawai‘i Review, Tinfish Issue 20, and Trout 14.



Donald Carreira Ching “Drowning Roots” from Between Sky and Sea: A Family Saga


Kā‘eo’s right palm was damp brown, the skin on his left red and raw. He rubbed both hands together and held them to his face, the smell of ground ‘awa root filling his nostrils. He whispered the words he had memorized, “E hānai ‘awa a ikaika ka makani,” and removed his hands, a prickle running down his spine. He tied his hair back and picked up a shell from the table, then scooped the ‘awa into a wood cup, brown settling on the surface before sinking below. He moved from the kitchen and into the heart of the cottage. There was a dictionary and an open journal on the floor, the pages of the journal filled with scrawling chicken scratch. He knelt and spoke into the cup, “E hō mai,” and then brought it to his lips. The ‘awa was like dirt flooding over his tongue, like river water after a heavy rain, and he swallowed quickly. Over and over he heard the word until the cup was empty and he spoke it: “‘Ike,” knowledge. He put the empty cup on the floor and looked around the cottage: tables covered with fibers and lengths of scrap fabric, nets hanging from the ceiling, a bookshelf sagging to the floor, and a stack of boxes his professor, Ms. Fujii, had never bothered to move. In the corner was a small bed, his clothes in a pile beside it. Kā‘eo made his way to one of the tables and found an old textbook. He picked up the text and then sat down with a handful of coconut leaf he had brought with him that day. It had been awhile since Kā‘eo had practiced weaving. He took one of the leaves and separated the spine from the leaf, then split that piece into two. After ten minutes and four spines, he closed the book and walked over to the window. Looking at the sill, he noticed a small fish that he had once woven; now so tan it was almost white. He held it in his palm and closed his eyes, feeling the warmth of the ‘awa brewing in his stomach.

The first time had only taken a few minutes: he had finished two cups and was running his tongue over his gums. Ms. Fujii, dressed in a navy blue sundress, her black hair pulled into a bun, had begun to pass out material. “In old Hawai‘i,” she said, “the task of weaving was performed by the wāhine, usually in groups, and often leading to the exchange of stories and daily affairs.”


The class, all eight of them, was sitting in a circle on the floor of the cottage. One of his classmates, Chloe, had already begun to work the fiber. Kā‘eo, sitting beside her, watched her hands. “Mr. Teixeira?” Her movements were confident and delicate, the material moving through her fingers with little effort. She wore a thin gold band on her right ring finger, the maile pattern just visible, worn smooth at the edges. He could hear her humming softly between breaths. “Kā‘eo?” he stopped and looked up, Ms. Fujii standing over him, “Are you alright?” “Sorry, ah?” he said, and picked up the fiber near his feet. The whole class laughed. Chloe just smiled. “It’s believed that ‘awa can bring ‘ike, knowledge, but it can bring other things as well,” Ms. Fujii looked at Kā‘eo, and then sat, “like drunkenness. Which is why when missionaries arrived in 1820, the planting of ‘awa was forbidden. Some still share their views today.” Kā‘eo enjoyed it, drinking ‘awa and working in the cottage. Ms. Fujii gave extra credit for any of the students in her lā‘au lapa‘au course that wanted to use the space to further explore the culture, and Kā‘eo and his classmates took full advantage. They would often drive up and study or do homework there, rotating who would bring the ‘awa powder. Eventually the semester came to a close, most of the class graduating that Spring, leaving only Chloe and Kā‘eo to enjoy the Summer months; Ms. Fujii sometimes joining them if the mood struck her. Their conversations often drifted away from academia, the three of them talking story, Ms. Fujii chiming in with tales of the mainland: what it was like growing up there, how different it was to wake up in the winter months and see the ponds frozen over, everything ice. “When’d you move here?” Chloe had asked one day. “Well I always had family here. My grandparents bought this land when Kāne‘ohe was still dirt roads, but I moved here when I was a freshman in high school. This room used to be nothing but bags of dirt, fertilizer, all kinds of tools. I loved it out here, so much to explore —all the plants, the river.” Kā‘eo nodded, “I been down dea, stay real peaceful, remind me of Ka‘alāwai.” “Where’s that?” Ms. Fujii asked. “Stay down Diamond Head, me and my Papa always wen go

73 down dea once.” Ms. Fujii smiled. “I always felt a connection to nature. My mother was the same way, always in the kitchen with her herbs. I used to sit there with her, drinking mamaki tea and talking story. She always wanted to make a nursery back here.” Ms. Fujii looked at the both of them, “You guys are here so often, have you ever considered growing ‘awa? It’d be easy enough to clear some space for you, not like this land is getting much use.” “Fo real?” Kā‘eo asked. Ms. Fujii shrugged. “The only way to learn how to make a lei is to string the flowers, right?” Kā‘eo stood and raised his cup. “‘Ike,” he said, and then downed every drop.

The first time had only taken a few minutes. Now, Kā‘eo could never be sure. It crept up on him, that feeling: nerves no longer on end, his muscles beginning to relax, his body forgetting itself as if lost in the current. Yet his mind would tread water, focused on the movements of his limbs, and then everything would seem clear, visible in that in-between. The sunlight was fading and the wind had picked up, a gentle breeze stirred the corners of the room, and he could hear the far off sound of the wind-chime that hung from Ms. Fujii’s lānai. He had come up to the cottage in the hopes of making a gift for his grandfather, something to demonstrate his dedication to that small space. Kā‘eo looked at the coconut leaf fish and wondered what was going on in his mind when he had made it, why he had weaved it in the first place. He looked around the room. Still, he could think of nothing. The rain came slowly, muted pick-packs against the windows. Kā‘eo sat and listened, no longer feeling the knots in his back or his own frustration. After awhile, the rain began to slow to a drip. Kā‘eo felt as if he could hear each drop streaming off the roof, spilling puddles in the grass. He stood up and walked to a window overlooking the river and again he heard it, a thumping. Outside, he made his way around the cottage, listening until finally he found it, an ipu lying in the dirt, raindrops falling against its shell.


They got to work a weekend later, Kā‘eo preparing the soil and choosing the plants, Chloe watering and weeding. He had a friend who owned farmland in Waikāne, and they were able to transplant some older ones, buying a few young roots to nurture themselves. They spent every other day at the cottage, caring for the ‘awa, weaving and talking story; eventually, Kā‘eo found himself at the Goodwill, hauling a mattress through the brush. Chloe was better at working the material, and she did her best to teach Kā‘eo, taking his hands and showing him how to fold the pieces into place. Kā‘eo made simple things, objects he remembered from elementary school: fish, swords, a bird. Chloe was interested in the cultural aspects of the craft. “It’s your kuleana,” she told him one day. “Your responsibility to who you are.” Kaeo laughed. “You think so, ah?” “I think it’s important.” She looked down and away from Kā‘eo, “I know my parents never took the time with me and I wish they had.” “I think dis jus one part of it, y’know? I mean, I no remembah my Papa doin dis kine stuffs.” “My dad worked a lot, sometimes two jobs, and my mom took care of the housework and me. My mom had to clean toilets to help pay for my tuition.” “Coconut leaf no cost plenny kala, go library get one book, or da kine VHS.” Chloe laughed, laying the material in thick double wefts. “They wanted me to concentrate on school. English, math, science, the important stuff, y’know? Guess they didn’t understand the importance of this kind of education. At least not when you got bill collectors calling so often you’re afraid to pick up the phone or open your mailbox.” Kā‘eo nodded and tried to follow her movements. Sometimes he’d watch her for a while, and then move to one of the tables and work on expanding his vocabulary with the Hawaiian dictionary he had picked up at the swap meet. “Why’d you stop,” she asked. Kā‘eo looked up, confused. She nodded toward an open box filled with papers and notebooks, underwear, what she imagined had filled his top drawer at home. “Writing,” she finally added. “One long story,” he said, earmarking a page on ‘pono’. “Let’s jus say I wen get sick of folks tellin me what I can and no can write, how fo

75 write. I wen have fo change high skus cuz of dat bullshit.” “I thought you went to Kamehameha?” “I wen go Kasso da first tchree years, one of da teachahs dea wen give one hard time cuz of da way I wen speak. He wen try fo hold me aftah sku every day fo fix my ‘broken English’, can believe dat shit or what? I wen finally get fed up, wen tchrow one fuckin desk at him,” Kā‘eo said, doing his best to hide his face. “I not one violent guy, you know, I jus… wen you keep hearin you no good, sometimes you start fo think it.” “Yeah,” she finally responded, watching him wipe his eyes. “But das not why I wen stop, I jus not dea yet, y’know?” He looked up at her, “Get plenty important stories get nutten fo do wit me, I jus waitin fo figgah out how fo write one dat does.” “Is that why you took Fujii’s class?” “Dat and I gotta get da right credits, ah?” he laughed. “Degree requirements, but it feels good too, doin something dat mattahs, das about my culture.” “I feel the same way. I guess I’m just surprised, the way you talk about your grandfather, I figured he had taught you.” Kā‘eo turned his notepad sideways and started to doodle. “I think my Papa was into um long time ago.” Kā‘eo glanced at Chloe and started to sketch long waves of black falling onto slender shoulders. “Was weird, da first time I wen taste da ‘awa, I wen start fo remembah all kine stuffs from befo. Like dis one time, my Papa, my uncles, all of dem drinkin ‘awa, havin one good time out on my Papa’s lānai. One taste and den all of a sudden I was dea again, watching um tchru da screen door.” Chloe put her work down, leaned back and let the sun shine across her naked collarbone. She began to hum, soft and slow. “What’s so weird about that?” Kā‘eo listened, trying hard to decipher the melody. He let his pencil slip down further, drawing a single lehua blossom near her hip. “Like I said, my Papa, he not li’dat. He not into da kine cultural aspects. He know how fo make net, he know plenny stories, but, I mean, he wen spend most his mornins down da pier, drinkin and talkin story. He wen tell me more about da guys he wen grow up wit den any of dis,” Kā‘eo held up one of their textbooks. “But he’s Hawaiian, right?” She tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “Been hea his whole life.” “I didn’t ask if he was local, I asked if he was Hawaiian.” Chloe


smiled, then picked up her work and examined the pattern with her fingertips. “Well even Ms. Fujii knows this stuff, and she isn’t Hawaiian.” Kā‘eo shrugged his shoulders and put his notepad under the dictionary. “I’ll be back, keh?” She nodded, “Keh.” Kā‘eo went back behind the cottage, to the ‘awa patch that they had planted months before. He touched the soil with his hands and then dug his fingers part of the way into the earth to feel for moisture. He dusted the dirt off his palms and walked around the small patch, picking out weeds as he went, occasionally looking up through the treetops for a glimpse of sun. When he was done he went into the cottage and began to prepare some of the ‘awa root they had purchased. “Hea,” he said, passing Chloe a cup. She drank half and put the cup on the floor. “Goin be happy wen da ‘awa we drink stay ours.” “Definitely.” “Jus feels good, y’know? Have one part in da process. I think das what I like do, if can. Not jus ‘awa though, maybe can learn oddah stuffs too, kalo li’dat; start one lo‘i. Maybe das my kuleana, ah?” “Maybe write about it?” Chloe took his hand and led him down to the floor. “You should bring your grandfather here, show him.” “You think so?” She smiled again, “Yeah, why not?” He looked at her over the rim of his cup and nodded, “Keh.” Kā‘eo waited until the ‘awa had begun to grow above ground before inviting his grandfather up to the cottage. He told him nothing about the place other than where it was, and that it was where he had been spending much of his time. “How you afford um?” Tūtūpapa asked when he arrived there that morning. Kā‘eo led him behind Ms. Fujii’s house and down the trail. “Our kumu’s place, she no care, tshe wen tell us fo use um how we like as long as we no use um fo trouble.” “What da hell you use um fo den?” Tūtūpapa joked. “Jus stay one interest, y’know? We figgah wit’out one place fo practice, how we goin learn?” Tūtūpapa bent down and touched the lauhala mat. “You good, too bad your Nana nevah live fo see dis.” “Das Chloe, not me.” He crouched down beside his grandfather, “You never told me Nana wen plait?”

77 “Her maddah did, das how was back den, but her faddah could make one mean tchrow net, bettah den any I evah wen make.” As they left, Tūtūpapa saw the beginnings of Kā‘eo’s ‘awa patch, “What’s dat?” “Dis what I really wen like show you.” “What da hell fo?” “Why buy um wen we can jus grow um hea? I bettah at dis kine stuffs, da land li’dat. Chloe says stay my kuleana.” Tūtūpapa started up the path leading away from the cottage, but then stopped and turned around. “You remembah long time ago, I wen talk to you about who you like be?” he asked Kā‘eo. “Yah?” “Well, too much of anything no good. Too much ‘awa, not enuff hea,” he pointed to his head. “Stay away from dis shit, undahstand?” Tūtūpapa grabbed one of the stems. “Is everything alright?” Chloe appeared at the top of the path, a silhouette against the sunlight streaming through. Tūtūpapa let go, the tops of the roots already exposed. He looked at her and then back at Kā‘eo. “You remembah, keh?” he pointed at Kā‘eo, and then made his way past Chloe, muttering “hūpō” under his breath. Kā‘eo didn’t bother to run after his grandfather, he didn’t know what to say and, the truth was, he didn’t understand his grandfather’s disappointment and anger. Chloe took to making the‘awa while he tried to explain to her what had happened. Kā‘eo was sitting on his bed looking out the window. “I never seen um ack li’dat befo,” he said. Chloe lay back against the wall and took a sip from her cup. “Alotta folks are like that, think it’s a drug. Numbs your gums and your mouth, must numb your brain. Like Fujii said, it’s that old missionary frame of mind. My uncle was like that, my grandfather too. My father was different though, ‘open minded,’ he would say.” “You wen have ‘awa befo?” “Once. My father isn’t Hawaiian, he grew up in California, so when he first heard about the stuff, he thought he was being cultural, you know, because my mom is hapa. I remember my mom’s face when she saw it, she fucking flipped. Why you waste money on that shit, she told my father, and dumped the whole thing down the drain.” “Was cheap or something back den?” Chloe ignored his question. Kā‘eo walked toward the bookcase and pulled out one of their textbooks,


flipped through the pages and, when he got to a section on ‘awa, laid it on the table and traced the sentences with his fingertip. “He wen look at dat shit like you said, like was one fuckin drug or something, like we was growin pakalōlō back hea.” “People think it’s sacrilegious, like you’re killing yourself, when really it isn’t a big deal, y’know? I mean we have ‘awa bars in Honolulu. The university is even thinking of starting a festival. It’s just that old way of thinking.” Kā‘eo laughed. “Let um cool down, ah?” “Let him know how you feel. What else are you gonna do, y’know?” Tūtūpapa never came to the cottage again. Instead he would make excuses or change the subject whenever Kā‘eo tried to bring it up. A few months after Tūtūpapa’s visit, Chloe and Kā‘eo had decided to make a throw net, and Kā‘eo decided to visit his grandfather, hoping he would help gather olonā. “Wen you goin start fo write again?” Tūtūpapa asked from the dip in his recliner. “You was good, y’know dat? How many folks you no stay published at your age?” “I no like write fo oddah people, about oddah people, anymore, Papa. I like do something real already.” “Den no do um li’dat, write about yourself. Write about dat time you and your braddahs went futtin around downtown and you saw your friend, da māhū?” “Kalani.” “No, no, was Leilani dat night, ah?” Tūtūpapa said, slapping his knee. “Dat buggah, his folks always wen catch him pickin tchru his sistahs drawahs.” Kā‘eo sat on the carpet, pulling at the loose strands. “So you goin go or what?” “Go wea?” “Up da mountain, I like you come, you get more experience wit dis kine stuffs.” “Why you still doin all of dis?” “What you mean?” Tūtūpapa took his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his nose. “All dis olonā and weavin mats, you was nevah into all of dis befo, dis what you like do da rest of your life?” “I dunno, maybe.”

79 “Couple years ago, was all about makin something of yourself, now you like work your ass off in da fields fo what? And all da money your folks wen spend on your education, how about all of dat?” Kā‘eo looked up at his grandfather. “I jus doin like you wen teach me, what feels right,” he said, resting his palm on his stomach. “You sure nutten messin wit yo head?” “Chloe get nutten fo do wit dis,” Kā‘eo said defensively. “I not talkin Chloe, I talkin dat shit you growin out dea.” Tūtūpapa sat back in his chair and crossed his arms. “What’chu think, dat stuff make you more Hawaiian or something? You think you drink a little ‘awa, weave some coconut leaf, you oneanada person, you and your girlfriend. You no think I know about dis stuff, you no think I wen know guys wen dedicate dea whole lives to dat shit, and wen end up all off.” “You no undahstand.” “No, I undahstand. What you no get is all dat stay lawehala, jus some classroom bullshit dey teach you fo mess wit your head. Jus like my friend Vince Carvalho, one born again—.” “I no get time fo your stories, Papa,” Kā‘eo interrupted. “I goin, keh? If you change your mind, give me one call.” Tūtūpapa looked at Kā‘eo, the red around his eyes and the yellowish tinge just beginning to blossom on the tops of his cheeks. “You still usin um, ah?” “What?” “Da ‘awa, can tell already. Heavy now, ah? Couple times a day?” “Das why you no like go wit me?” Tūtūpapa nodded. “Tell me why, how come you no can jus go do um sobah?” Kā‘eo walked out of the room and paused when he reached the door, letting his grandfather’s words pass. “You know,” he said, walking back into the hall, “I goin show you, somehow I goin make you see dat it stay more den all of dat.” Tūtūpapa pushed himself to the edge of his recliner and looked at his grandson. “Maybe you think doin dis make you more in touch wit what you weave and work, but it nevah goin be li’dat. No mattah what you drink or what you do, da only tihng dat mattahs is right hea,” he put his hand on his chest. Kā‘eo looked at his grandfather and nodded. “You goin see.”


The ipu’s shell was sand-colored with patches of dark brown and although it had been left to the elements, there were no cracks or signs of damage. Kā‘eo moved it around in his hands and wondered where it had come from, if it had been Ms. Fujii’s or one of her students, if it had been grown near the cottage. Had it ever been played? He sat down on the lauhala mat and cradled the ipu’s neck, then thumped the bottom. Water splashed against the inner wall of the gourd’s belly, thump, and again the tiny rush. The sound reminded Kā‘eo of the ocean. Every time he hit the gourd, he imagined the waves crashing against the hull of a boat, or a canoe. Wa‘a, he thought, picturing the vessel making its way over the sea. After a few minutes of playing the ipu, he felt the ocean breeze on his cheeks and face, and his body became loose and fluid. The ceiling was swallowed and replaced by a black sky. He was everywhere and nowhere at once. Then he saw it, a wa‘a kaulua carrying a group of young men. They were just shades at first, but when the vessel drew closer, Kā‘eo saw himself, struggling to keep pace with the others, his hands shifting on the paddle, his posture less poised and prepared. He followed as they made their way along the sea, his attention fixed on the image of himself. “Pūpūkahi i holomua,” the men shouted, all except the image of Kā‘eo, who was still trying to keep up. “Pūpūkahi i holomua,” the men said again, and again Kā‘eo watched himself struggling to understand, paddling harder and with less rhythm. Kā‘eo could see rocks jutting up out of the ocean and a ridgeline in the distance. The men stopped paddling and one of them spoke to the image of Kā‘eo. He looked at the man and shook his head, and again the man asked. Uncertain, the image stood, then lost his balance and fell into the water. Kā‘eo saw himself struggle and try to make his way back toward the boat, but the man laughed and threw Kā‘eo’s paddle into the water. The men grabbed their paddles and turned away from the cliffs, the wa‘a disappearing in the distance. The image began to swim toward the shoreline, the distance growing with each stroke. Finally, after what seemed like years, the image raised his head from the water and reached a hand out for the rocks. His palm slapped the surface and he opened his eyes, no closer to the cliffs than before. He treaded water, looking around for any way to reach the

81 shore, or for the wa‘a, making its way back toward him. Kā‘eo could see himself growing tired, more and more of his body sinking into the sea. He held his head above water, waves crashing against his face and, just before his head fell below the surface, there came a whisper. He awoke, the room drenched in darkness, the sound of crickets filling his ears. He was on his back and could feel his heart beating quickly. He felt for the wall, flipped the light switch and then looked around the room. The lauhala mat he had been laying on was crumpled, and the dictionary had been kicked in the corner. He found the ipu just beneath one of the tool tables, the side completely split, a puddle formed under the gourd. ‘Awa had never once caused him to hallucinate and he wondered if he had experienced a hihi‘o. ‘Pūpūkahi i holomua’, he went to the dictionary and after a few moments of working through the pages, recited the definition: “Unite fo move fo’ward.” Unsure of what to think, he began to straighten up the cottage. The vision occupied Kā‘eo’s thoughts that night. Every time he seemed close to sleep, the paddlers would slip into view, the young men shouting as they carved their way through his mind. When he finally fell asleep, he dreamed that he was swimming toward the cliffs, fighting against the waves that continued to pull him back. The next morning, he called Chloe and asked her what she thought. “It’s an ‘ōlelo no‘eau, my paddling coach always used to say it. The rest though, I dunno.” “What den?” Kā‘eo said. “Call Ms. Fujii?” “I goin see my Papa.” “How’s he gonna help?” “I dunno, I can jus feel um.” Kā‘eo ended their conversation and went out into the yard to pick some papaya, then jumped in his truck and headed out to his grandfather’s home in Pearl City. “Shit, what you doin hea so early?” Tūtūpapa asked when Kā‘eo arrived at his door. “What I doin hea at all, you mean?” Kā‘eo smiled and held out the papayas, “You wen eat yet?” “Jus wen get back from da store, get Podagee sausage, rice from last night too. E hele mai,” Tūtūpapa said, pointing toward the kitchen. Tūtūpapa made the eggs and Kā‘eo prepared the papaya. After both had been plated, Tūtūpapa poured guava juice into two glasses and they both went out onto the lānai. “So what, I know you nevah wen come


all dis way fo sample my famous Podagee scramble,” Tūtūpapa said. Kā‘eo took a sip of his juice. “Something been buggin me and I think was one sign fo come see you.” He looked away, “I was up at da cottage last night and I—.” “What?” “I think I wen have one hihi‘o.” “One what?” “One vision, one dream.” “Oh,” Tūtūpapa smiled so big the top of his glasses met his eyebrows. “Da huaka‘i pō come see you?” “I serious Papa, was weird. One minute was playin dis ipu, den da whole room wen get swallowed up in watah, den I wen feel like I was part of da ocean, y’know? Den dis wa‘a wen come by, and I wen see myself paddlin.” Tūtūpapa just stared at Kā‘eo, trying to make sense of what his grandson was telling him. “A part of da watah?” he asked. “Yah, but was in da wa‘a too,” K‘eo said. “You nevah wen paddle befo.” “I know, and could tell cuz no can grip da hoe correct and no can keep up, y’know? Den, we wen get to these rocks and was one huge fuckin ridge, and one of da guys he wen yell at me, he wen keep shoutin, pūpūkahi i holomua.” “Unite fo move fo’ward,” they both said. Kā‘eo looked at his grandfather, “How you know?” “One Hawaiian proverb, nowadays you hear um all da time. Paddlahs, politicians.” “Das what Chloe said.” Tūtūpapa shrugged his shoulders. “What about da rest of it, what about da ridge?” Kā‘eo continued to describe what he remembered. Tūtūpapa laughed. “All dat time wit your books, you wen fo’get, ah?” “What you mean?” “Ka‘alāwai, whatevah you wen dream, sound like Ka‘alāwai to me.” Tūtūpapa shook his head, “I wen warn you about ‘awa, stuffs no good. Got you dreamin up magic ipus and da kine visions.” “It’s not da ‘awa, Papa.” “How you know?” “I jus know, keh? Was different, wen feel real.”

83 “Bullshit.” Kā‘eo set his glass on the table. “You would know, ah?” “What’chu mean?” “All your bullshit, all dis ‘awa dis, ‘awa dat, all shibai.” Tūtūpapa took a large swallow from his glass and placed it on the table beside Kā‘eo’s. “Like I wen tell you befo, too much of something no good.” “So how much stay enuff, huh? How much ‘awa you wen drink befo you wen come one righteous guy? I remembah da fuckin ‘awa bowl was so full, da fuckah wen stain da table.” Tūtūpapa’s expression was solid, steady. “I nevah wen drink ‘awa, nevah. Your uncle Nai, he da kine, local wen he like be, wen he wen try fo ack like he was bettah den all of us. He wen bring dat shet my house one time, one time, “Tūtūpapa held up a finger, “but I nevah wen drink um. You remembah how full da bowl was, why you think da buggah wen stay dat way?” Kā‘eo was quiet. “What da hell it mattah anyway?” Tūtūpapa asked. “I dunno.” “What’chu mean you dunno?” Kā‘eo looked at the floor and took a deep breath. “Dis whole time, wenevah I wen learn one new word, or wen I wen try fo weave something, I always wen think of dat one moment cuz nowadays I no undahstand what you about. I wen think was generational, ah, between da military and da restaurant, you wen fo’get what it means fo be like me and Chloe, fo have one kuleana. I see um now though, I undahstand da dream. Dat ridge, I no belong dea, I no belong wit one old man who drink guava juice outta one carton fo honor who he is.” Tūtūpapa stood up, “You not thinking straight, you need some watah or what?” Kā‘eo pushed his chair out, got up, and opened the screen door. “I goin leave, keh? I sorry I wen show up,” he said, and walked inside. “You gotta stop dis already. You dunno what you doin.” Tūtūpapa walked in after him. “Wen was da last time you wen talk wit your faddah, huh? Dat you wen kiss your maddah on da cheek? Mark stay askin about you, you know?” Kā‘eo opened the front door. “Fuck you.” “You stay obessed, Kā‘eo.” “Your ears must be bad, ah?”


“You listen to yourself, what you sayin right now? You fo’get what mattahs already, and fo what, one makeshift tool shed, one girl who no know bettah?” Kā‘eo stopped. “You da one goin lecture me? You, Papa? I tell you what, go back inside and bring down da whiskey bottle you get behind da SPAM, y’know wea, up on da top shelf. And den wen dey ask wea da fuck I am, you think of dat fuckin bottle you been keepin up dea, and you tell dem wea I like be, keh? Uncle Nai local wen he like be, Vince Whoevers one born again nutten, well wen da fuck you goin teach me how fo do more den fish, wen da fuck you goin teach me how fo make da net?” Kā‘eo unlocked his truck and got in. Tūtūpapa walked to the front door. “Pūpūkahi,” he said, his lips shaking. Kā‘eo rolled up his window and reversed out of the driveway. Tūtūpapa ran out to the road. “Pūpūkahi,” he yelled again, the lettering on Kā‘eo’s tailgate unreadable in the distance. Kā‘eo wove through traffic. He sped through yellow lights, and when he got onto the freeway, continued in fifth gear until the Kāne‘ohe exit. Waiting at the intersection of Kahekili and Likelike Highway, he noticed his notebook in the passenger seat. He picked it up and flipped through the pages, the first few filled with words on words, the ink overlapping in straight strokes and brief curls. Then the pages emptied, white space and doodles, so many caricatures of Chloe he could almost hear them hum. He flipped back to the last thing he had written: ‘pono’. Someone’s horn blared. His phone rang. Kā‘eo yanked the wheel to the right and slammed on the gas. “Yah?” he said, pressing the phone between his cheek and his shoulder, checking in his rearview to see if any cops had caught his illegal turn. “Are you alright?” Chloe asked on the other end, “I’m guessing the talk didn’t go well.” “Wea you stay?” “Home.” “I like see you, alright, wea da hell your house stay? Kailua, right?” “Nevermind, I’ll just meet you at the cottage, okay?” “Nah, I like pick you up, should I turn on Kam or head down Kalaheo?” She paused. “Turn?” he asked, louder this time. “Yeah,” she said. He did, cutting off another car. “So what, wea I gotta go?”

85 “You know, I’ll just walk down to the bus stop.” Kā‘eo laughed. “I jus wen pass Hawai‘i Memorial.” “Seriously, just turn around and I’ll meet you there.” “Eh, jus let me pick you up, keh? Fuck, not like I some strangah or something. Why you bein so damn secretive fo anyway?” “I’m not.” “Fo real though, what you get fo hide?” She sighed and told him the directions. After passing the cemetery and reaching the intersection of Pali and Kalaniana‘ole Highway, Kā‘eo followed Chloe’s directions into Maunawili valley. With each turn, the houses seemed to grow in size; some fenced off, while others displayed signs indicating the home security service of choice. Kā‘eo’s pick-up glided along, looking out the window, he couldn’t help but think he had found himself on his way to Ka‘alāwai, to Cromwells. Chloe was waiting on the side of the road; a huge two story loomed behind her. He was surprised; he had always imagined that they had come from a similar place: a single-family with barely enough bedrooms for him and his three brothers, in the country, near rivers and streams, where you could smell the wet through the walls. Kā‘eo pulled his truck onto the grass and got out. “Happy?” Chloe asked, her arms crossed. “Fuckin Maunawili, huh, how many toilets your maddah wen clean fo afford dis place?” “I don’t want to hear it alright, let’s just go.” “Nah, nah,” Kā‘eo said, looking at the smooth stones that lined the driveway. “What your parents really do, huh? You faddah wen work two jobs my ass.” She made her way to the passenger side. “Let’s just go, keh?” she pulled on the door, but it was locked. “No be shame. We jus stay hea, fuckin palace up dea, ah?” Kā‘eo started to walk up the driveway; Chloe caught up to him and grabbed his arm. “What’s your problem?” “Problem? You da one like push me around. Why you gotta lie fo? What school you wen go, Punahou? Iolani?” “You’re being ridiculous.” “I get it, too good fo me, ah? No wondah you nevah like invite


me up hea, no wondah you wen lie, too fuckin good fo one moke outta Kahalu‘u.” “Get in the fuckin car already.” Kā‘eo spit on the ground, “Funny, y’know, talk all your high maka-maka bullshit about da ‘āina, and your kuleana, guess stay easy when your fuckin family can buy all da culture dey need.” “Shut the fuck up.” “I jus sayin, you talk all dat bullshit, ackin like your whole life your hands in da dirt, wea your hands really been, huh, what da fuck you really wen do? Who da fuck are you anyway?” Chloe started up the driveway, and then stopped and turned around. Kā‘eo could hear the sound of moving water beneath his breath. “You know, I used to think alotta things about you. I used to think you were just confused but really you’re just fucked up, you’re really just some little boy hopped up on some shit you can’t handle, wanting to be something you aren’t.” Kā‘eo slapped his knee and started laughing. “You goin bring up dat shit too, huh? You? Y’know, I guess we all wen learn something today.” Chloe turned her back and walked away. Kā‘eo continued to laugh. “Pūpūkahi i holomua,” he yelled at her back, “unite fo what? Move fo’ward wea?” She turned to look at him from the top of the driveway. “You and my fuckin granfaddah, and me, and fuckin everybody. We eithah in da fuckin wa‘a tryin fo paddle to who da fuck knows wea, or in da watah, tryin fo get back to someplace we no can fuckin remembah.” Chloe laughed. “What, huh? What you get fo say to me now?” “You want a proverb Kā‘eo, how about this one: ‘o ka makapō wale nō ka mea e hāpapa i ka pōuli,” she yelled. “Translate that shit, and then tell me, where the fuck are you?” Kā‘eo smiled and shook his head, his jaw and stomach sore. Chloe was already out of view, disappearing into that other world. He got in his truck and drove, switching gears by the sound of the engine. The radio was barely audible and Kā‘eo sang whatever songs came on, and when he didn’t know the words, he made up his own. Whenever he came to a red light, he sung louder, sometimes looking into the car next to his, dedicating a verse to the lucky lady, or stopping mid-sentence and giving a shaka to the man in the driver’s seat. He drove for a while, eventually drifting off, not paying attention to the streets or the world around him. When he heard gravel under his

87 tires, he stopped suddenly, not realizing where he was until he heard the wind-chime from Ms. Fujii’s lānai. He parked beside the trashcans and got out. Ms. Fujii was on the porch stringing together paper flowers with a piece of thread. “Good afternoon,” she said. He looked at her and then to a plumeria bush beside the steps where she sat humming a familiar melody. “Aloha ‘auinalā, e kumu.” “What brings you here today?” “Cruisin, y’know?” Kā‘eo was already at the back gate, but stopped, Chloe crossing his mind. “Dat song, what stay da name of um?” he asked. “Andy Cummings,” she said. “Waikīkī.” He nodded and watched her string the last flower and tie the end. He unlatched the gate and passed through without another word, leaving his slippers where the dirt began. The ground was soft from the morning rain, and Kā‘eo could feel mud clinging to his feet as he made his way down to the cottage. When he reached the small building, he went around the back to the ‘awa patch, where three or four plants stood tall. He grabbed the tallest of them, pulled it from the earth, and carried it into the cottage, leaving a trail of dirt behind him. Inside, he cleared the table with one arm and dropped the plant on the surface like an animal carcass, and using only his hands, separated the roots from the stalk. He grabbed a knife from another table and cut the roots into chunks, then put a handful of pieces into his mouth until his chin was moist with bitter juice. The effect took only minutes, Kā‘eo tried to wash his face in the sink but it did nothing to dilute the numbness running through his limbs. He left the cottage and rounded the ‘awa patch, not stopping until he found the small trail that led down to the river. When he reached the bank, he kneeled down and submerged his head in the water. Face dripping, he lay down in the mud and looked up toward the sky. After awhile, evening came and somewhere in the back of Kā‘eo’s mind he could hear an ipu being played. He was there again, in the water, but this time there was no sign of the wa‘a, and the cliffs were so distant that he could not tell the shoreline from the sky. He could feel his arms growing tired, and the waves crashing against his face. Pūpūkahi, he thought they whispered, but when he woke, his head just above water, he had already forgotten what they had said.


Author’s Statement My M.A. thesis represented one-third of my completed novel manuscript and chronicled Kā‘eo Texieria, the eldest of three brothers, and his struggles with identity and cultural loss in contemporary Hawai‘i. This excerpt focuses on a particular moment in that struggle in which Kā‘eo's exploration of his cultural heritage as a Native Hawaiian comes into conflict with his grandfather's colonial perception of ‘awa and its use. This conflict leads to a rift between Kā‘eo and his grandfather, and ultimately toward Kā‘eo's further dislocation. My mentors on this project were Prof. Rodney Morales, Prof. Georganne Nordstrom, and Prof. Craig Howes. Prof. Morales provided keen insight into the narrative detail and creative elements, and to the overall themes of the text. Prof. Nordstrom aided, oversaw, and provided feedback and direction on the use of Pidgin, its history, and the intricacies of the language. Prof. Howes provided support in all areas, especially offering critique of the narrative's overall structure, language use, characterization, and trajectory. A wealth of support and wisdom came from my talented and creative colleagues, Donovan Kūhiō Colleps, Amalia Bueno, Kapena Landgraf, Doug Neagoy, Cheri Nagashima, Norman "T-Man" Thompson, Lisa Chow, Scott Kaalele, and others. I am also grateful for the wisdom and knowledge of Prof. Cristina Bacchilega, Prof. Ku‘ualoha Ho‘omanawanui, Prof. Gary Pak, Prof. David Maine, Prof. Frank Stewart, Prof. Cynthia Franklin, Prof. Uzma Khan, and Prof. Morgan Blair.


Donald Carreira Ching was born and raised in Kahalu‘u. He earned his M.A. in Creative Writing from UH Mānoa, where he also received the Myrle Clark award with distinction and was awarded the Patsy Sumie Saiki award for fiction. He recently completed his first novel, Between Sky and Sea: A Family Saga, set to be published with Bamboo Ridge Press, excerpts from which have appeared in Hawai‘i Review, Hawai‘i Pacific Review, and Bamboo Ridge (#98), with a forthcoming excerpt in Chaminade Literary Review. In 2014, he was awarded the Ian Macmillan award for fiction, and in 2012, he was the runner-up in Honolulu Weekly’s annual fiction competition and placed first in the Star Advertiser’s Halloween fiction contest. His stories and poems have also appeared in other publications locally and elsewhere.




Donald Carreira Ching

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