Dejan Perez

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.