Poems by Adam Aitken
The Rabbit Woman of Honolulu
You a tourist? No, I work here. A college student? Good. Tourists are always photographing my rabbits. Now you’ve met the Rabbit Woman of Honolulu.
I’d broken my own taboo on photographing people without asking them first. She waved a finger at me. I apologized. I thought she’d tell me to fuck off. She had that right. It was like she had eyes in the back of her head when I was pressing the shutter.
We walked down Kapi’olani Boulevard.
Rabbit Woman –– or was it Rabbit Lady? My memory getting into mythic mode. But that’s her own name for herself, the name she said. (This is a poem, not a police report.)
Then she told me how the world was going to end when a black hole at the center of the earth would suck everything into it.
Like all media savvy, she knows how to deal with the media. She’s got the Press Release memorized.
Habla Español? Where are you from? You look Latino. My mother was an Arab, my father a Spanish aristocrat. I never knew his surname.
Do you have a number I can call you?
The world will end. But there is a solution –– a massive NOAH’S ARK a 1000 feet long and 300 feet high built out of Koah wood, the Hawaiian super timber that resists rot.
Read the bible, it was all in there. Make sure to seal the insides with waterproof tar. If I could get the students of the university to build it she would appreciate it a lot.
They were smart college students, and they could make it.
The hills of Manoa. She pointed to them. They’d be wiped out by a thousand foot Tsunami. But the ark would float above it all. I was heading there for lecture. I thought of turning back. Maybe she’d be right. Maybe she was the PROPHET.
The TV guys came and photographed me. I was on TV. She smiled.
I asked her if she lived in Kapi’olani Park. (Lived there, like a home I thought? A stupid question.) I move around she said. Why I asked. I get bored she said, and she didn’t hang around the library in McCully.
Too many crackheads. Then she told me about her rabbits. How a certain crackhead in McCully Park had taken one, stole it out of its kennel and cut its throat.
Then he burnt his mouth on a crack pipe. But the police had his number, and so did the Filipino Mafia. The bastard. The police had had it with him.
The police photographed the rabbit, the dead one.
“And that fucking rabbit-killer, he were gonna to die.”
Ala Moana, a path to the sea.
Here is an island chain fringed with nostalgia
homegrown and the foreign.
The tourist vision from balconies of hotels
where you’d expect colonial ambience,
and you’d pay good money
for smooth transits to beauty and tradition,
where the waiter’s impeccable but his one rebel gesture
is a large punkish leather belt and buckle
he bought at Guess.
Otherwise here the food grows more locally,
like mostly all the staff,
and the lunchtime fashion models are twinned –– one a blond, the other
Polynesian –– one in a blue dress, the other in beige,
where the unique horizontal ceiling fans
survived the renovation.
Nostalgia is the voice of TheBus, the welcomeaboard
Nostalgia. Each destination is the one you fondly remember
but not the one you know.
Nostalgia breaks out on the distant reef
where longboarders are sharing waves
in a civil way and remind you
of Duke Kahanamoku, and where
the Duke’s statue attracts smiling lovers.
This is nostalgic, not the love part,
but the statue’s permanent gesture of aloha,
made permanent in bronze,
festooned with lei and other gifts of pilgrims.
The very idea of a good wave left untaken, left to the gods,
gods who are not nostalgic but quarrelsome,
they are the pastpresentfutureforever
in this sky, this water, this every place.
When it rains it’s nostalgic, the double rainbows
in Manoa Valley, like the auto-art
spray canned on a surfer’s panel van
in a stoner’s village, my world in 1975.
What we called fuck trucks, way back then and they’re
collectable and nostalgic.
The mothers of Big Island, Hilo’s SUV driving kind,
dragging their kids and bags of organic vegetables.
Under the Banyan tree in Hawi, you’ll find nostalgia
but it’s real, as real as a cool piece of shade
where the pickup trucks unload chill boxes
of poi and pupu and food for the farmers market
and the locals catch up on the goss.
No doubt there are tensions but it was Sunday in Hawi
and it was “Eat Local Day” and everyone was
wearing their best.
Even the military are nostalgia’s guardians,
for what gives them a warm afterburn is
Patriot Day, and the launch of a new frigate
by a real war veteran who’d had his arm shot off
but still managed to take the machine gun nest
on a hill in Italy in 1945.
So I want to write 747 poems
and not worry. Whose home is it?
I can write 300 pages of drug related commerce
and abusive relationship break-ups,
this place that’s better not to argue with,
in case the present or the future makes me feel nervous,
(for that is my present).
Great writing, not nostalgia.
A union demo at the Hilton,
old style chants, placards that still mean we’re here, now,
echoing and unmaking my silences,
in-between ear-plug moments sliding shut
the plate-glass lanai door on a 40 storey condo.
Homeless, the homeless, are they nostalgic,
like the schizophrenic shouting into a public phone
with the passion of Armageddon with not
the slightest hint of irony?
Heard, seen, acknowledged, at least
when all the places that have really changed
are the places even old timers can’t remember.
You want to shout Fuck Tourism,
but that would be nostalgic.
These poems first appeared in Tonto's Revenge (Tinfish Press, 2011). My thanks to Susan Schultz, the editor; “The Rabbit Woman of Honolulu” also appeared in “Going Down Swinging” #32. My thanks to the editor Geoff Lemon.