Dejan Ann Kahilināʻi Perez is a current senior who is completing her college experience with degrees in English and Women’s & Gender Studies and minors in Norwegian and Native American & Indigenous Studies. Originally from Honokaʻa and Waimea on the Island of Hawaiʻi, her poetry and academic work derive their strength from the inspiration that comes from being raised in a place that is as complex, haunting, and culturally rich as Hawaiʻi is. After PLU, she hopes to continue to write both creatively and academically.
I sit at home waiting for the call. The mynah birds have gone to sleep. The coquis, though, they are up, echoing their names from the bushes around our island home. These frogs survive by the word invasive, meaning they take lives and only give back their own by thousands. Our feathered relatives in their bellies, our plant relatives carrying their eggs. On the porch, I sit and wait for a voice that isn’t a claim to territory, but life. A child is resisting its birth, resisting earth staying in an aunt on a hospital bed an island away. There is something about the first baby in a decade that keeps you awake, listening, praying, stomaching what you can of dinner– I feel like a child again. A child so lost without a father, or mother, or other children to ask the whys and how’s that supposed to work? when the backyard chickens peck at their own eggs and act like gods as they unweave the worm lattices in our soil, disrupt decay, caw challenges and wager away their headdresses and their bones, knives at their mouths, when all they do is end as puddles of their own molt. I think of the child, swimming away from ground and deeper in the red thalassic of his first home. He knows, I think, that on the ground, this island is a cock-pit and only the well-fed cocks fight. And then there’s us, our ancestors brought ships with frogs to our ancestors with soil and story. We have both the ground and ocean in our veins. We thank them by finding the highest place to leave a plate and chain the names of the departed to get full on peppered fowl and heaps of long grain. The altar can be the backroom water heater or with the yellow-pill bottles atop the fridge. I will teach him, I promise, before the call comes, to never eat the found-plate. Instead, to eat only what is given. As he eats at our dinner table, he will know it is not a heroic act to eat only what is offered to you. When the child comes, no one can wait. I receive a photo of Mom holding him, his handprints on her gown like red chrysanthemums, his mouth open for air.