Sunday 5 May 2024

3 Poems by Gary Kissick

Dawn at Halape Oasis

The night has worn out.  It was my blanket
and consolation.  Whenever I opened my eyes,
the dark was thick with night sky stars.
Whenever I turned my body, makai or mauka,
it buoyed my body with darkness
and constellations.  Of a multitude,
one star remains.  The calm pulse of its light
beats in the tidal pool.

Rain Quietude

In sleep made of sleep and remembrance, a few raindrops
sound in the dark.  Like a chieftain, the wind moves through leaves,
then the raindrops fall.  But I am deceived by other
nights and desires; these are only small hands
shaken from the sky.  No rainfall follows
the path through the woods, the night is clear of its sound,
and I can hear the ocean open
like a palm among small rocks.

I think of days when some ghost undulation
moved through stillborn
rain on the ocean.

I have seen that same blown curtain in the changing tones of sea
seen from a great height on clear days; and in clouds paled
by wind on the pali; and in a woman’s distraction
when buoyed by love past dusk to darkness,
she finds an unfamiliar light illuminates
a world still moving, but moving less,
as she lies wet and hesitates
to wonder what love will remain
when she has handed it down to herself through the years
and her hands have changed it,
when even now it is strangely unapproachable,
an arrangement in perfect balance,
and, offhandedly, she says,
“I think it’s going to rain.”

A Pact With Spirits

It is a pact I have made with spirits.
They will not reveal themselves.

When I turn to examine an echo,
I’ll see no old Chinaman
forlorn in an overcoat
worn thin by moonlight.

When I sleep in the woods,
I’ll hear no ancient songs, no women crying
where there are none. The desolate
babies in the graveyard
will be cats. The clack of bamboo
only that.

Coat hangers
will not rattle in the closet,
the lock will not come undone,
nor will the rocking chair
rock of its own accord.

I, in return, will believe in them.


Gary Kissick, a past editor of Hawaii Review, is the winner of the Pacific Poetry Prize for Outer Islands (U. of Hawaii Press, 1984), The Honolulu Poetry Prize, and a National Endowment of the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship.  In addition to Outer Islands, he has also published Another Kissing Couple Has Exploded (Gatehouse Press, 2007) as well as the novel Winter in Volcano (Random House UK, 1999).  His work has appeared in Antioch Review, Appalachian Review, Best of Bamboo Ridge, Esquire, Manoa, The Nation, Poetry Now, Prairie Schooner, Rolling Stone, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Village Voice, White Noise  and elsewhere.  He is a graduate of  both the University of  Iowa Writers Workshop and the University of  East Anglia (UK).  He is a Professor Emeritus of  English with the University of  Maryland Global Campus.

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