MR. ÉTIENNE HEIFARA
By Kimo Armitage
Mr. Étienne Heifara is sad that he left Tahiti on bad terms with his siblings
Night is an old woman with a cane
poking the sun to come out.
Mosquitos fill my childhood home.
My gut is full of raw fish and coconut milk,
my tired eyes are
chips of red ice.
for a truce. I tell him I am not ready.
When mother dies,
she gifts me the family property.
My brother and sister fight me.
They want to sell this land, and
split the proceeds
according to their math.
But the paperwork is complete,
the legal ink long dried.
There is nothing they can pursue
but, the pain of betrayal
is a deep scar on our faces.
Matahiari’i says: Tahiti and Hawai’i are
connected by the volcano goddess, Pele.
Pele carries her sister, Hi’iaka
in the long journey from Tahiti, but later
they fight each other
over a mortal’s love.
Pele sends her lava to consume
Hiʻiaka’s pandanus groves in Puna.
In the end, almost everything is destroyed.
Only the gods can intervene
to save the family
from destroying each other.
His metaphor shatters
what I think I know.
This has nothing to do with properties or
homes, it is our mother’s love,
the loss of her touch and voice,
I wish I could tell them, share
these words that will encourage healing.
No matter how much we suffer,
we must hold fast to our memories,
we will not find them in someone or
something else. It is in us, that they live on,
these feelings of love,
deep and eternal.
They want none of it,
love is love, but
money is money.
My sister has a heart condition,
diabetes has taken her eyes and
her legs. My brother is already
dead three years from a heart attack.
My daughter tells me
when she goes to visit him
in the hospital, there on
the nightstand in his room
is a picture of all us children
taken on the beach over 70 years ago.
I feel sorry when she tells me that.
How many times he must have looked
at that photo, chasing the dream
of what could have been.
Mr. Étienne Heifara enjoys the memory of Christmas with his friends and family in Punaauia
A Bobby Halcomb original oil painting
hangs in the foyer of
this mansion in Punaauia.
It is an earlier piece,
the face of a Tahitian man in red and gold.
Our hostess serves us oysters, and
five huge ice cream cake logs
capped in Belgian chocolate for Christmas.
I snuggle into a lounge chair for a nap.
In my dream,
water, air, fire, and wind
placed inside a house
on a canoe sailing
on the Pacific Ocean
of sea, stars and celestial bodies.
I call out the names of
Mōʻīkeha, Laʻamaikahiki, Maui,
Mau Piaailug because this
water universe is unforgiving
and we will need captains.
We are each a journey,
a migration and I contemplate
all that is spiritual of
these makeshift idols,
like lava rocks on the roadside
stacked in rows
adjacent to the ocean.
The cool and hardness
of these stones and spaces,
dwellings for spirituality.
I see cornerstones of houses,
upright posts, grass thatching
ancestral houses for the elements:
wind is the breath of our bodies,
fire is the heat of our bodies,
water is our tears and urine and blood,
earth is our bodies and skeletons.
This knowledge carried
in trans-Pacific journeys.
I awake to loud noises,
everyone is drunk,
jump-diving into the ocean
from the dock.
Sometimes this is how knowledge
comes to us, in dream-states at night
when the wall between
the physical world and
the spiritual world
are the thinnest.
This is my advice:
is most chaotic, lie down.
Go to sleep. Dream about
everything that is
unnoticed and necessary.
Mr. Étienne Heifara remembers taking a boat to Tiahura lagoon
On the sandy lip of Tiahura lagoon,
the plump fingers of a Tahitian woman
offer me the oily belly of a big-eyed fish.
Twenty feet away,
a frigate with a throat the
color of a lychee
balances in the breeze.
I imagine that my grandfather is there
his knees covered by soft foam.
he throws his net,
pulls in a small bounty and
tosses the fish onto the sand
their mouths gasp for life.
Grandfather throws again,
the sun catches his net
for a second, it reappears
chops the ocean
into blue diamonds.
He turns towards me, smiles,
beckons, his large hand
waves me over.
It is your turn. Come.
This is how I see him.
Again and again, forever.
The blood of this fish
stains my fingers.
Michael tries to souvenir
the moment in a photo, but
chides me when I don’t smile.
I tell him:
I am angry at my wife’s breast cancer
for taking her away from life.
I wish she could see this,
the crimson flesh of this fish,
the tranquility of this lagoon,
the glide of huge black rays.
I throw the fish to the frigate,
watch, as it is devoured
scale by scale.
|Kimo Armitage draws upon the rich stories of his youth spent in Haleiwa, Hawaii, where he was raised by his maternal grandparents. He is the winner of the 2016 Maureen Egan Writers Exchange in Poetry administered by Poets & Writers. Armitage published his first novel, The Healers, with the University of Hawaii Press in April 2016.|