The Place of Refuge

Walking down the shoreline at Honaunau,
where Pele washes her long dark tresses
in the surf that pounds the end of the earth
and the ancient heiau throbs with mana
like a glowing chakra along her spine,
I arrive at the City of Refuge.

Here the new world is still coming to life,
coming down the mountain from its fire womb;
and to release its spirit to the sea
it too flows to this sacred island place.
Birth and rebirth are the same event here,
and the cast away is gathered again.

At this edge of the world I am renewed,
and my spirit follows the offered leis
tossed into the beckoning, waiting sea,
across the bay in the morning sunlight,
wafting their fragrant and delicate scent
on the gentle breeze that is Kane’s breath.

Kanaloa, lord of the mighty deep,
accept from my hand this small, fragile gift –
from one who has crossed your great span safely,
and found Lono’s kindling to fire my soul,
set alight by your blazing brother, Ku;
hear my thankful words of praise and longing.

The mist rises, returning to Waikea,
as the glorious creation awakes;
and across poi’hoihoihoi and a’ah
I retrace my careful steps from the edge,
leaving a small part of me on the beach,
taking in exchange only aloha.

24 OCT 2001

I wrote this poem last year when Sondra and I went to Hawaii together, after she and I performed a thanksgiving ritual at the shore early one morning a day before we were to leave the islands.

Hawaiian word glossary:

Pele: Goddess of fire who lives in the volcano at Kilakeau
heiau: sacred spirit temple
mana: lifeforce, spirit, energy
Kane: God of air, clouds, fresh water
Kanaloa: God of the ocean
Lono: God of vegetation, forests, land
Ku: God of fire, war, hearth
Waikea: The realm of the Gods, a mystical invisible island
poi’hoihoihoi: the large, ropey lava flow
a’ah: crunchy, broken, lava pieces
aloha: greeting/farewell…love within and without, surrounding in all things
Pu’ohonua O Honaunau: place of refuge at Honaunau
Pu’ohonua: place of refuge (anyone who was to be killed for breaking kapu [taboo] 
could be purified by the priests at the place of refuge and then could begin their life again – 
without fear of death or revenge).

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