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Mai Kinohi

Aloha kākou,

This blog will serve as the primary form of documenting my journey while researching my dissertation.  If you want more information on why i’m torturing myself with all this research, feel free to check out my prospectus here: Aikāne, A Kanaka Maoli Moʻolelo Beyond Queer Theory: Unsettling White Settler Logics and Empowering Indigenous Desires. 

This is a project that has been calling me for as long as i can remember. I’ve spent most of the last 5 years trying to figure out just how i can approach this research in a way that properly honors my kupuna and the things they’ve taught and continue to teach me about aloha. I am terrified but also excited about the opportunity to honor this kuleana.

While i’m researching, collecting, analyzing and writing i will try to keep up to date on this blog with my process, developing methods, and any/all interesting passages that jump out at me. Primarily, this blog will serve to document my research process and ethos as it develops in real time.

Enjoy,

Heoli

PS: a few things you need to know should you decide to read on…

  1. These posts are not combed over. they are mostly just my thoughts as i’m having them. Therefore they are not complete, nor are they final. I will make some strange conclusions. Don’t go nuts, its just a blog and i’m not presenting any of this information as fact. Rather this is a place for me to literally think through things out loud.
  2. i probably wont proofread most of this. And if i do, there will probably still be typos. I don’t actually care if my research blog has typos. But you might. it might frustrate you to read something so “sloppy.” To that i say, if you are more concerned with my typos than the manaʻo (sometime hiding) behind them then this blog isn’t for you and thats okay.. there are millions of other blog out there.. many of which are proofread. Go read one of those. (see look theres at least one typo above.. iʻm not going to fix it.. i want to condition you properly to the experience of reading my blog).
  3. I love sharing ideas, i hope if the passages i post bring up ideas that you want to share, that you will share them too. iʻm not really interested in arguing, but iʻd love to hear your perspectives on the materials. Lets have conversations about this. I ka ʻŌlelo no ke ola right?
  4. I am sharing direct passages from moʻolelo hoping that more people will read them and talk about them; therefore, feel free to share anything you read on this blog (including my manaʻo) as long as you cite what you share properly. I will do my best to provide adequate citations. if i donʻt, shoot me a comment and i will provide it for you. Because unlike typos, i do care about citations.
  5.  iʻm really excited to be sharing this blog with those of you who want to read along. With that said, feel free to keep me accountable if i haven’t posted in a while. Because i know staying up to date will be difficult.
  6.  Homophobes or people otherwise attracted to heteronormativity and heteropatriarchy, keep out. Im not interested in being called out by your limited imagination.
  7. yay, lets blog

To Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio

on the day you learned you whole name

when your lips were sticky with wet lihingmui and promise

do you remember the sparkle in your fathers eyes

when you could repeat he favorite 9 syllable song

i wish i could give you that sight back

on the mornings you feel empty

and not enough

 

when jamaica is insecurity overflowing from the body

i wish i could remind you of your center

your middle

piko

Heolimeleikalani

the chant sung to the heavens

how your father plucked that name from his na’au between ‘ōlelo classes and embodied memory

how he and your mother

imagined you

a song to sing into a new day

that would reach into the heavens but always land back on solid ground

 

‘Ae. Jamaica is the woman on stage

but you are her voice

her pen

her poem

Jamaica is the reason they come

but you are the reason they stay

you are the kuleana behind all the promise

all the misdirection

 

I want to show you how beautifully that light of you shines through

And even in your darkest moments

That your malu is a gift too

 

I know sometimes you feel like the worlds most successful fraud

like every ounce of koko in you is a betrayal to your tongue

i know sometimes you do not know where you’re left after splitting hairs between legacy and desire

but there is a reason your brother is the gift, your sister is the memory

you are the voice caught between them

you are the reason the world will hear the story

I know this is not a gift as much as it is a burden 

But listen 

You are never alone 

Remember always the morning you sat beside the ahu at pu’uhuluhulu and called each kūpuna one by one as they sat beside you 

Or the morning you pulled the whole sun from the horizon with just your voice 

Or the morning you calmed the sea with just your breath

Or the time

You stoped a whole telescope with just your trembling body standing with your lāhui

These are the feats of memory that will always make you remarkable 

But remember they are also just one piece of your story

Mai Poina 

But always 

You you are all of this and Heolimeleikalani 

And all that song will always call upon 

“I am born again in the a’a”

This morning

 

This morning I have no poems 

No words of wisdom

No metaphor to stretch across your sky 

my blood has no rhyme of rhythm to cradle your pu’uwai 

This morning 

All I have is the magic of a mauna 

Caught in the sight of the sun 

As we are teased by the treachery of time 

This morning

All i have is this wait

Weighing 

Minutes stretching across the hardening curve of my spine 

All my Words caught in the cracks of my breath

hands curling into their own heat

I have nothing here to hold you with 

And you

Still 

As constant as the summit 

With all your magic

Always Rising beside me

For all the aunties, but especially for Mary Maxine Lani Kahaulelio

 

Aunty says
She climbed a 90 foot cliff in the dark
Traced the scars of a long forgotten waterfall
Cried as she felt the green disappearing under her fingertips And i learn
That aloha is courage steeped in mourning

Aunty says
This arrest bond is the most important paper I own She holds it out like a certificate of her lineage
And I learn
To be born kanaka means to take pride in the fight Means to understand the polity of our bodies

Aunty says malama kou kino
Says don’t take no fucking shit from nobody
Not even our own men
And I learn that there are so many violences that will come for me Too many to count
Too many to turn to metaphor
Too violating to write into this poem

Aunty says she sees hope in me And I watch her overflow
Says she dreamed of this day And I learn

That genealogy is a promise to take your place amongst you’re greatest hero’s in this mo’olelo

Aunty says I love you
And I stand in her shadow, expanding
And every fear in me evaporates
Every doubt casts itself aside
Every whisper that does me no service is carried away And I become
Everything she dreamed I could be

I become an aunty too
A mauna

My mo’opuna will stand in the malu of

Ask me about the Mauna

 

Ask me about the mauna ⠀⠀⠀
And I will tell you about thirty kānaka huddled shivering in an empty parking lot ⠀⠀⠀ 
Praying ⠀⠀⠀
The lāhui would answer the call ⠀⠀⠀

⠀⠀⠀
I will tell you about two nights ⠀⠀⠀
Cot sleeping ⠀⠀⠀
Directly under a sky scattered in stars ⠀⠀⠀
In air so clear ⠀⠀⠀
Every inhale is medicine⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀
How every morning ⠀⠀⠀
I woke to a lāhui growing ⠀⠀⠀
As if we were watching Maui fish us ⠀⠀⠀
One by one ⠀⠀⠀
From the sea ⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀
Ask me about the mauna ⠀⠀⠀
And I will tell you ⠀⠀⠀
How on the third morning I watched ⠀⠀⠀
As 30 became 100⠀⠀⠀
then 100 became 1000 ⠀⠀⠀
then 1000 became us all⠀⠀⠀
Each and every one of our Akua standing beside us ⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀
Ask me about the mauna ⠀⠀⠀
And I will tell you the mo’olelo of eight⠀⠀⠀
Kanaka chained to a cattle grate ⠀⠀⠀
And the kōkua that sat beside us ⠀⠀⠀
How we were never alone in the malu of our mauna ⠀⠀⠀
How no one is every alone in the malu of our mauna ⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀
Ask me ⠀⠀⠀
And I will tell you about the hands I held ⠀⠀⠀
Through blistering cold ⠀⠀⠀
And extreme heat ⠀⠀⠀⠀
How I learned love ⠀⠀⠀
From the subtle tilt of her temple pressed against mine ⠀⠀⠀
Or by the solemn promise of her eyes ⠀⠀⠀
How the evening before i braided prayers into her hair hoping they would hold

Ask me ⠀⠀⠀

And I will recount their names ⠀⠀⠀
All 361 kūpuna⠀⠀⠀
One after the other who showed us mo’opuna how to stand ⠀⠀⠀
How they stunned and activated a lāhui with their sacrifice ⠀⠀⠀
How I wept ⠀⠀⠀
And wept ⠀⠀⠀
And wept ⠀⠀⠀
As I quietly held their names in my chest⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀
Ask me ⠀⠀⠀
And I will sing the song of our mana wahine ⠀⠀⠀
All 100 of us ⠀⠀⠀
Linked arms and unafraid ⠀⠀⠀
Who stood in the face of the promise ⠀⠀⠀
Of sound cannons and mace ⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀
Ask me ⠀⠀⠀
And I will tell you ⠀⠀⠀
How this body has been changed ⠀⠀⠀
How home takes on a new meaning these days ⠀⠀⠀
How family shows up at exactly the right time and place ⠀⠀⠀
And how silence is a clarity that cannot be bought ⠀⠀⠀
⠀ ⠀⠀⠀
And I will say ⠀⠀⠀
I have been transformed here ⠀⠀⠀
But won’t have the words to quite explain ⠀⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀⠀
I will say : ⠀⠀
⠀⠀⠀
I am not quite sure who exactly I’ll be when this ends ⠀⠀⠀
But at the very least ⠀⠀⠀
I’ll know⠀⠀⠀
This ‘āina⠀⠀⠀
Did every thing it could to feed me ⠀⠀⠀
And that will be enough to keep me standing⠀⠀
Until the very last aloha ‘Āina

Frontline Pilina in the Malu of the Mauna

 

It’s Wednesday
And I find myself standing
In the shadow of a mauna that loves me like islands emerging from the sea Like a sky scattering herself in stars
Like a lāhui kanaka growing

I’m standing in the malu of a movement
That’s captured a generations heart and attention I find myself
Here
My body
A kīpuka expanding
Into Pele’s pāhoehoe grip
Holding

holding holding

my quiet
And in my silence I hear her wailing

It’s Wednesday and I find myself Without searching
Arms linked with a line of women I barely know

But was destined to love
A line of women stretching back for thousands of generations
Pō, turned light, turned pūko’a turned slime turned gods in a time of mere men

Who more fierce then these bodies of islands These bodies of women
These moku
turned ‘āina
Spilling into our sea of islands

These hands stretched out Feeding a generation Accustomed to starvation

It’s Wednesday and I am holding her arms Like I am holding this mo’olelo
Strong but tender enough to let both breathe Deep

I am praying to be a wahine worthy of this moment Worthy of these hands
Holding me
right back

And then Aunty tells me
We are the generation they always dreamed of
So it’s Wednesday and now I am weeping

And every kūpuna that ever fought, ever cried, ever died so that we would know for sure how to stand
Is singing through me
And somehow

Somehow i am still standing Arms linked in a line of women Holding me
And all I have to offer them

Is this story
That is incomplete

10 ways I have been loved this ʻanahulu

1 

Every morning Līlīnoe sends her simmering skin to me 

And as she arrives 

I am reminded of the blessing of wai 

2

loads of laundry 

Washed 

folded 

And delivered 

3

“Do you need a hot shower” 

Offers from strangers

For comfort and warmth 

4 

“Have you eaten” 

“Are you drinking enough water”

The most romantic question I have ever been asked 

5 

Her hands 

Shoulder

Hips 

And forehead 

All the ways we curl into each other’s orbit 

6 

The simplicity of our effortless three part harmony 

Mele Hawai’i 

Mo’olelo 

And all the songs that comfort the soul 

7

Dozens of Kapu aloha kia’i 

Walking the pu’uhonua 

24 hours a day 

To keep us safe 

Smiles constantly unfolding from the corners of their face 

8

9

Ho’ohōkūkalani’s dance across the evening sky 

10

every sunrise and sunset 

In the malu of a mountain

That loves me to my Piko 

Uncle opening every morning in ceremony 

E ala e 

With the expanding tenor of his voice 

We are readied 

Pale

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Pale. 
1. nvt. To shield,  defend,  shield, protect,  resist;
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2. vt. To deliver, as a child.

Again and again 
He tells me 
How these niho 
Will pale me from what I cannot see
And all of a sudden 
Between the rhythm of my swelling skin and breaking breath
The memory of you comes into perfect vision
I think
of all the times I’ve ever said:
“I never saw you coming”
And with each strike 
Each drop of blood and ink 
Spilling over and wiped away
Something new is born in me
And I forgive 
Us both
a little more 
Just enough
To stand
  a little more upright
To walk 
a little less afraid 
To love
on the other side of all this knowing 

Tonight

 Tonight 

I speed agsianstthe backdrop of the Rocky mountains

My mind racing through the chronology of our pilina 

And her voice cuts through the stereo 

“It’s not simple to say”

And so simply and fully, 

i fall back into your memory 

And now 

I am not so much snow capped Rocky Mountain ridge lines

But New York cities lights and falling skies 

I am the woman weeping in your arms 

As she sings

“I still remember that girl”

I am that girl you called your love 

Over and over until i forgot my own name

And this is how most days go 

I TRY TO FILL THE SPACE

With things that will make me feel like home

But everything about me that i love still has your scent, your smile

Your kiss 

And some days i find the balance between lying and living in this new world 

where it seems maybe we never happened 

Maybe my memory 

Is just the story i wrote wishing you into my world 

And then of course, you text me 

As if to check 

If i am still here 

If i am remembering 

And of course, i am 

So i weep

Because even though it is you, reaching towards me

I am here and you are not and will not be

And again 

It’s just me alone with our memory 

And then i get caught 

In that dark spot called here and forgotten 

Called never happened

Called replaced

Called wondering what i was, if i am no longer

And now i am caught in the undertow of questioning every word you ever offered

While i watch you slide your smile across the skin of the sea to someone else 

My own heart breaking in your hands

On repeat 

And i am tempted to call it all a bad dream 

A fantasy 

A diversion in your real story 

And then she sings again

“She is gone but she used to be mine” 

And like that i know there was love 

Here 

I can still sense its taste 

On the back of my tongue 

Even if it isn’t here 

Anymore

I can still see the whole sky 

Light itself on fire 

From the reflection in your eyes

And so these days

I try to carve away all the excess

Everything that isn’t, wasn’t, and wont be love

Sometimes I get a little liberal with my own carving 

I Watch it 

Us 

Me 

melt away 

But I try not to rewrite the past 

In my insistence on watching it all in reverse 

Try to remember the night i held you

In our hotel room and you said you were ready

How i crumbled in your arms and you just held me

I try to hold the moment 

We woke to the sky falling outside of our window

All of New York City just putting on a show for your smile

Or every time we made love and our Kupuna sent showers to celebrate us

Or the Anuenue that stretched across Mauna lua bay above you

As we chased the sunset across the face of leahi 

I know there was love

Because i remember the salt of your skin on mine

When you asked me to take you home

One last time

So i hold the love

Like i used to hold you

I remember

I remmeber

I remember 

Alone in the dark 

With the stereo on loud

So scared of all this life inside of me

I Write the poem

Listen to the soundtrack of our past 

The Sara, maroon 5, the Jason mraz

Again and again 

Until i can almost hear your voice

Until its you sitting beside me in this car

Until you reach out to pull my hand into yours

Until you tell me again, how i need to believe that you will always come back 

To me

That I am worth remembering 

I break under the weight of those words

And yet, i keep holding 

Keep remembering our little piece of forever

Even if you choose not to

E kuʻu mau haumana

I learned at an early age

That the best way to teach

Is simply to tell the truth 

This is what iʻve always tried to do with you

And isnt that the point of moʻolelo 

To share something real

That might resonate 

That might make change

That you might find truth in too

And so My kupuna believe

Truth comes from darkness

From pō

They say 

Comes ʻoiaʻio 

The truth is 

I’ve been struggling 

Knowing this.. I guess I could say that these days

I feel saturdated in truth

Sometimes I wake realizing 

I am not quite ready to imagine legacy

The dance from child to sibling to parent

Of a generation of schoalrs who will supass and outlive me

Thankfully 

But this again is a part of the practice of being worthy of teaching

This was always a part of the duty

Recently, A friend reminded me 

That before I was born I agreed to the life laid before me

So here I am 

Weaving baskets of moʻolelo 

Preparing to carry you in 

Like my kupuna and kumu did for me

But whats the truth?

Sometimes kuleana is heavy

Kaumaha

Sometimes it marks the body in black ink 

Sometimes it bleeds through the skin 

Sometimes I forget the right way to carry it 

To walk under it

To speak in my own voice 

Sometimes I am ashamed

Of the ways I do not live up yo my own names 

Other times

I feel graditude for all the smalls waYS YOU ALL HAVE FORGIVEN ME

IN SMILES, IN WIRTING

IN YOUR OWN SOLLILOQUIS 

Filling THE spaces I didnt quite know how to dance in

For all the ways you forgive me for all I am lacking 

The truth is I have spent 24 years preparing for these momenets 

To read and write and talk about the truth with you 

The truth is 

I was born to the greatst kumu who ever lived

My father

And his 

And mothers moving on for generataions

And an ʻāina and moana that has loved me beyond my own meaaasure

I have been given more moʻolelo then I could ever deserve

Than I could ever carry

And here I am 

At the precipice of a moment 

Meant to understand my own function 

Standing before you 

With more questions than answers 

In a time where our lack of understanding has the gravest consequesnces 

And most of the time

The truth is 

I fail to do it all justice

So instead 

Here is the lesson I should have led with 

When I was a child

Moʻolelo was the most intimate gift to be offered 

It meant you were worthy 

It meant you were loved 

It meant you were cherished

It meant I want to offer you my eyes

For you to see a bit of this world like I do 

For a moment 

In complicated fashion 

But with aloha for everything around you 

And so the truth?

I wonder most nights

That even if I wasnt the best version of myself this semester

If you still got to hold the magic 

Still got to sit in awe and wonder

For this moʻolelo you are now a part of 

And always have been 

2000 generations in the making 

As old as a sea of islands 

Still growing 

I wonder 

If you were moved

If we were moved

If we can continue to move those around us who fail to see what we do 

So If nothing else I hope you 

Remember these truths 

Remember the gifts of bravery and imagining 

That we stand on the shoulders of giants 

That everything that has ever been done 

Was once impossible 

And the only way we know

All the amazing tranformations that it can be done

Is because someone somewhere carried the moʻolelo 

And loved someone enough to share it 

Like I have hopefully done 

With you 

Questions from the Moon

 I take the long way 

Drive slow 

With the music in low 

Try my best to remember 

As little as I can 

I chase the moon

All the way home 

And when I catch her shine

Like the secret that was once your smile 

she becomes 

the only body 

The only gravity that can pull me away 

From you 

And for a moment 

An hour 

An evening

I am free 

And then 

Like a flood 

Suddenly and all at once 

I wonder 

Are you looking too?