Jamaica Osorio and Ittai Wong


Ua ʻola ka ʻōlelo mai ka paikū ʻana o nā pua

Our language survived through the passing of flowers

In 1896

The last reigning monarch of Hawaii,

Queen Lili’u’okalani was

Held prisoner in her own palace

Communication with the outside world was prohibited

Thus newspapers were snuck into her room wrapped around flowers

For months our Queen and her people wrote songs and stories

Hidden in Hawaiian,

So as to converse without the Overthrowing Provisional government knowing

It is because of this we know our history

The language of hidden meanings


The first written Hawaiian poetry

Songs and dance were the medium in which we decoded their


Connecting connotation through


Speaking of flowers but meaning children

Ua maika’i ke kalo i ka ʻohā

The branch is a reflection of the taro root

We are a reflection of our genesis

The most intricate euphemisms that ever existed

And you had to understand the history and culture

To decrypt this language

Had to dig deeper than dictionaries

Beneath esophagus

And vocal cords

To grasp the root of the words our people would chant

Just to understand their messages

This is kaona,

In a time where our freedom of speech was denied

And words needed to be hidden in order to be heard

The language of commonality was no longer an option

So our oral traditions evolved else words would die

Our language survived through the passing of flowers

Our ancestors survived through the passing of tongues

A dying language wrapped a dying culture

Our flowers

Our Children

The ones we promised to die for weren’t surviving

So we sent our stories

Wrapped our children in blankets of words

Hoping they hold on to their meanings

Ua ʻola ka ʻōlelo mai ka paikū ana o nā pua

Ua ʻola nā ʻiwi mai ka paikū ʻana o ka ʻōlelo

Ua ōwili ʻia ka mākou keiki me ka ʻōlelo

Nā Pua

Nā Pua

Ke moe I ka make nei ka mākou mau keiki

No laila ua paikū mākou nā moʻolelo

Wāhī nā keiki me nā kapa o nā ʻōlelo

mana’olana mākou e pa’a aʻna lākou i nā mana’o

E hō mai ka ʻike mai luna mai e

O nā mea hūnā no’eau

O nā mele

E hō mai

E hō mai

E hō mai e

So today I pray

For the winds to blow understanding to her people upon the backs of change

I pray

That forgotten stories everywhere flood through

Like the white washed ships

Which stripped our language away.

I pray.

For every foreign tongue

Re-learn its native kiss in language

Formed as flowers,

Spread across the lands we know as our own

Hold the salvation of our souls

Through the wishes begot long ago

Because some meanings should never be hidden

And with every word lost,

We lose a piece of ourselves

With every story forgot,

We lose a piece of our history

It’s time to uncover the past that we may understand our future

Interpret our stories that we may better know ourselves

So listen to me

Existence persists as long as we have language

If we cannot communicate with each other, we cannot survive

He mana ko ka leo, a inā aʻohe leo, a’ohe ʻola

Without language,

We have nothing

We must see to it that our language survives like the past, through flowers

Ua ʻola ka ʻōlelo mai ka paikū ʻana o nā pua

E hiki nā pua e ʻola mai ka paikū ʻana o ka ʻōlelo

So our children can survive,

Through the passing of language

3 thoughts on “Kaona

  1. Aloha Cuz,
    Just wanted to say thank you for sharing kaona, this poem moves me, it brings tears, I love it. I wanted to recite this poem for my speech class, but I have to cite the author, is it you? If not do you know who wrote it, if it is you can you give me any more important info you think I may need? Mahalo
    Melanee Leialoha Luahiwa- Nahale’a

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