Poem-a-Day - "Waikīkī Returns" by Christy Passion

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May 19, 2022 

Waikīkī Returns

Christy Passion

            I do not have any memories of Waikīkī ever being like this
not even in my father’s stories was she so utterly alone.

            No sunburnt tourists, no convertibles on Kalākaua Ave.
not even a leathery beach boy to survey the shoreline.

            Waikiki remembers though
her long curved neck of white sand anchoring

            empty hotels offers herself up to lapping little waves
rushing forward then pulling back again and again.

            Silver flashes of halalū close to the shoreline
hundreds pulsing instinctively forming an arrow

            then bursting into a corona, doubling back with black
eyes and thin fins twisting like the lie

            of a skilled lover, dazzling. The old rock wall under
the newly paved walkway jutting out past the reef

            so clear I can see the outlines of my brother and I
timing the crash of waves, holding hands as we jump

            from the ledge over the white spray
the sucking boom as our bodies

            break the surface while unseen watery hands
push us back up. Perhaps those same hands tickling

            the belly of that honu, its green-gray shell ascending.
Covid has managed the unimaginable, has returned

            Waikīkī to herself. Is it wrong to be so grateful?
I share this early morning quiet with a lone fisherman casting

            near the transplanted kukui nut trees which have no business
being there. The thin nylon line invisible against

            the slowly brightening sky and I never want anyone to return.
The drumming shoreline, gleam of the gold crucifix against

            the fisherman’s chest, salty air on my cheek—
all of it strengthening our way back into the light.

Copyright © 2022 by Christy Passion. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 19, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.

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“This poem was an unexpected gift of the Covid shutdown. With the tourist industry absent, the reemergence of seals, sharks, and turtles marked the shorelines. The beach was a way for me to unwind from the stress of working in the hospital. I found myself walking in my childhood, my father’s footsteps and my tutu’s, at these shores. The stark contrast of Waikiki Beach, with no people, yet teeming with life, was haunting—like a storybook with an alternate ending. This poem is a way for me to not only hold back the future, but to step into it.”
Christy Passion

Christy Passion is a Native Hawaiian poet and the author of Still Out of Place (Bamboo Ridge Press, 2016). The recipient of awards from the Academy of American Poets and the Hawaiʻi Literary Arts Council, she is a critical care nurse in Honolulu, where she lives. 
Still Out of Place
(Bamboo Ridge Press, 2016)

“This City I Come From” by Agnes Lam
read more

“Shelter in Place” by Tina Cane
read more

Thanks to Brandy Nālani McDougall, author of The Salt-Wind: Ka Makani Pa‘Akai (Kuleana ‘Oiwi Press, 2008), who curated Poem-a-Day for this month’s weekdays. Listen to a Q&A about McDougall’s curatorial approach and find out more about our guest editors for the year
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