Huli i ka Muliwai

Huli i ka Muliwai

by Liza Keanuenueokalani Williams

I speak to the Muliwai.
That murky place –
that dark place, green
with salt and pink with sweet
waters greet the sky
and sky greets the earth,
huli, huli, huli,
turning over small crests
fat with hapawai
and even deeper dreams.

I dreamt of the salt.
The ocean, a dark foreboding
inky bluish-purple,
it beckoned
in this way
that churning and sweeping
circular and swallowing
waves of the deep, might do
halalē, halalē, hū
swelling ocean crests,
call forth
as I plunge in.

I submerge in the dark black.
The dim surround held particles of light,
untethered,
like a billowing mist
carrying memory, and feeling
quiet and birth –
the anticipation of something
once known,
a waiting
unfurled,
where the steady pulse of the heart,
pana, pana, pana,
exhales desire
into a heart-stirring heat
waking
its oceanic depths.

I dreamt of the fire.
It was molten rock and dark black
smooth red-hot,
the underbelly of which
could be seen
from afar –
moving still
those billowy fingers
at rest, where gray clouds
envelope, the stars
rise into that sapphire sky,
still red-hot glowing magma
would press against the ground
searing the grasses,
concealing the road, all black and
engulfed,
my travels, traversing
where she had not yet traversed,
the glass that was forming,
the wisps of her hair,
the envious trance of glistening heat,
the faint weariness of ash,
against the sky would erupt,
ʻolili, ʻolili, ʻolili,
moonlight and
shimmering fronds
of dew
that surrender relief
as I finally let myself weep.

I retreat.
That murky beyond –
that dark place, blue
with shade and black with grief
tears meet sky
and sky receives the sea,
pōpolohua, the pōpolohua
purplish-blue sea clouds
dance the horizon
tangled yet open,
speak to the roots and call to the earth,
furtive and withholding
knower and sage,
fierce and yet desolate,
unfettered and unleashed,
the creation of destruction
and the destroyer of establishment,
subsumes, and subsides,
rests,
at the Muliwai.
I give you my hand –
and to kiss you –
the faint scent of frangipani,
with salt in the air,
the mists start to gather
lingering
our fingers
slowly
it cools, and
uluhe is fragranced
where there is rising
the heart is distilled –
kūliʻa, paʻuhia, paʻuhia,
kūliʻa – liʻa, liʻa –

I speak to you there.
At the mouth of the river –
pulsing
with salt and pink with sweet
waters greet the sky
and sky greets the earth,
huli, huli, huli,
turning over small crests
fat with hapawai
and even deeper dreams.

Author’s Comment:

I offer this poem as a response to the collective space that we are creating and imagining called the muliwai. While I present this poem in the first person, I offer it as a dimension that links individual and collective experience, where we as Pacific Islanders, and as Indigenous peoples, may meet. This poem intentionally plays with the duality of experience, with past and present, with English and Hawaiian, with the simultaneity of creation and destruction, with physicality and dreams, where the dream space untangles socio-cultural boundaries and free-associates with image, time, memory, and experience. I explore the muliwai as a theoretical space that captures the unknown, the dark and the light, and as something that is both rich with possibility and full with desire. Drawing from journals I kept of dreams I encountered, “Huli i ka Muliwai,” is meant to “turn” various sites of being – imagery, feeling, and color for instance, in order to access those realms that sometimes escape our logical and intellectual concepts of the world. The feeling of desire and longing runs through the poem which can be read in many different ways, including sexual desire, an overwhelming longing for someone or something that we may never attain, and perhaps an unfettered desire for something or someone that compels us beneath our day to day experience. I use desire as a way to explore emotional murkiness, where our collective desires both propels us to move forward with creation but also is reigned in as social norms and commitments dictate how we express our potentialities. I directly respond to our collective conceptualization of the muliwai as “a murky and constantly changing place; a place of meeting and transformation; a mouth between the land and the ocean,” as untapped potential and subconscious release that allows for possibility and meeting – in all areas of our experience, in the intellect, the body, in feeling, and in spirit.

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