Postcards from Paradise


An old Japanese cemetery is set in a clearing beside a grove of Hala trees. The grass is close-cropped, a green cushion for the lichen covered memorials. Crumbling columns are inscribed with calligraphy bleached in the sun. There’s no particular order or plan here—the old gravestones jammed up against the new—some so ancient, there’s just an oval rock set upright in the ground. Not even a name survives. In the center, a pile of collapsed rocks gives testimony to the passage of time.


at the deserted cemetery

a car door slides open

I am no longer alone

noisy visitors above ground

silent inhabitants below



My neighbor Lily Wong was the one who planted it when I moved into the rundown, metal-roofed house. She told me, “It’s a money tree,” and winked as if I understood the inner workings of fortune. When I flew to Hilo the first time, my flight stopped in Honolulu for a hurried layover. The cashier in a glittery gift shop made me change for a tin of mints and advised, “You’ll be happy in Hawaii if you don’t plan on making a lot of money.”


the gnarled spider drops

down a silky strand from a leaf

careful, butterfly!

an overgrown money tree

an unacknowledged trap



The wind at the end of Kailani Road blasts a mist of salt air, prickling my face with stinging needles. A cracked cement curb provides a place to sit and watch the breakers. The surging waves hypnotize me; I can’t remember what I was thinking. The surf pounds in, violent and noisy. The wind raises its voice at me, bombarding my ear drums, and protests something I’m not sure I understand.


winding up in white spray

the surf explodes against the rocks

nothing can stop it

streaming over the black boulders

spilt milk



A year after I moved from New York, Lily came over with an armload of clothes she wanted to give me. She dropped them on my bed and waited for me to start trying them on. I slid on a mumu over my t-shirt and jeans, then stood in front of the mirror. Lily sat on the bed; her voice took on the tone of a consulting physician, “I think you need to stop wearing black.” My reflection stared back at me, a floral and lace puffball. In the corner of the closet, my leather boots bloomed mold.


rose colored Maui

floats in the azure ocean

it’s not easy to look at

perpetual pastels

striped with clouds



Around the nine-mile marker coming into town, a private memorial is set back from the road. A white cross, strewn with shell and dried lei, stands in front of a bamboo thicket.  A family of five teddy bears, most missing an eye or a nose, marches up to the cross. The top triangle of a yellow surfboard juts out of the ground next to a row of empty Chivas bottles. Bleached coral lies on the grass in the shape of a heart. On a sign at the top of the cross, scrawled in red capital letters, is a name.


my journal’s ribbon

blows in the wind

still I scribble

chicken scratch

in the sand


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