Read the introduction by guest editor Craig Santos Perez.


 

Red and Yellow

 

A servant of gods on Earth

Your only duty to cloak the king in glory

Scarlet and gold draped over the shoulders of history

Aliʻi marched into battle with the embrace of an ʻahuʻula ʻiʻiwi

The song of ʻiō and ʻoʻo and ʻiʻiwi was the war cry of Hawaii

Shoulder to heel dripping in the blood of victory

Blood as crimson as the hulu clutching his shoulders

With the end of a war the trees screamed

A weeping a shouting a chirp a cry a peck

The capes of young men grazed shoulder blades

With age their feathers grew to kiss their ankles

A prince walks and displays the beauty and splendor of our rich fertile island

Look we bear rich sweet soils, strong heavy woods

A pregnant sea lush with fish because we only catch in season

It is illegal, kapu, forbidden even to prize an ʻopelu when the winds were high and the air was cold

The cycles of our island are the calendars of our people

Listen here and let it be known that we are teeming in the fruits of a paradise

We worked for our abundance

The land responded with the fruits of our labor

We asked the gods for permission

And listened for harmony after we chanted Kū Nihi Ka Mauna

And turned around if nā Akua showed us we shall not enter

We plucked and planted and cleaned and maintained and hunted

And we chanted back to return the ahuʻula o nā Aliʻi when they left us for Autearoa

And when you looked at it

And ogled it and wanted so badly to touch it

And think that the accumulation of this satin glory was a waste and irresponsible to our environment

Mai poina that we worked

And took a few feathers for decades and let the birds fly back home

But you didn't know that

So you didn't protect them, you expected your manu to always fly back home

Our forest is silent

And the only red and yellow we spot is from an ailing ʻohiʻa

Why are the colors of nā aliʻi always the subject of threat

It is because you have forgotten our calendars and have forgotten that our tides don't rise and fall for your surf and your tanning days

They rise and fall because the moon pulls them up and down trying to remind us of when makahiki is

And when the seasons of kū and long and kāne are

And we chant e ala e as if we are awakening the yellow crimson orange sun

And it is loud and we cheer and clap because we did not forget that we knew what we had

And we will cry for you ʻiʻiwi because you remind us of our once prized ʻāina

We view you in a glass case at a quiet museum and only some of us can hear you cry

As our aliʻi were buried, the forest grew somber

And yet the cries are still there in the backs of our minds and we did not forget

And will never forget your red and yellow majesty

 

 


Jessica Carpenter is a native Hawaiian, born and raised in Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. Her family comes from Pālolo valley. She studies English literature with an emphasis in Pacific literature and creative writing at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.

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