by Rain Wright

Sister taps against headlights on the memories of the dead

horse killed by the car on the thread of a highway
at night while she dipped and rocked against dark tides
in the rain swift odor of the redwood built Hōnaunau
house with wounded light of shadow beneath
the mango and avocado hitting tin roof

some who lived down on the roadbed of the old rail line, the Hawai‘i
Belt road, under huge heights of hāpu‘u, a recovery, used to bury their
dead on their own property, backhoeing through the bluerock
of the glass island, basalt liquid, wind and sun dried lava

old headstones titled by movement of ground or wave
sat up as old bones in ‘ōhia edged houses. Some
bury the carcass of the horse in lava tubes on Mauna Loa.
The shield, the slopped grace of a falling

She wants to edge up on the lost one, the changeling,
wants removal of footprints in Styrofoam, cathode tubes, things lodged in
the snout, and dying albatross, we are an island, division
away from the ‘Ō‘ō tucked as the spirit in sacred
feathers beneath the wings,
warm scented underbelly, pieces of the soul, the history
the ‘a‘ahu ali‘i and ‘ahu ‘ula
of the glass island
where she blooms bright red when plucked it rains
sucking from the lehua for life
as we read of whale falls, of cubed bones, of endless
ocean bottoms. Some bury their dead in the fall. We push
up against the tilt of the black poly tarps she uses to keep
us out.

Solei asks if I remember Lita’s horse getting hit by the car. Says she was little and woke up alone, in the dark, afraid of the sounds that came against the tin roof of our redwood house—the house Teddy built in Hōnaunau before he met our mother. She was afraid of the sound of rain, afraid of the rats that crawled across rafters to get to the avocado and mac nuts. We were down with the horse, with the headlights of the cars, with the dying sounds. She was alone.

My mother stood with her daughter’s pain, holding Lita as she took and gave away blame for the horse. Who left the gate open? Why did the horse leave at night? The cars moved by the curve of the road, Hawai‘i Belt road, which held the body. The road ran down the history of our moving lives. Down past Miloli‘i where we lived before Teddy, down past Ke‘ei before Teddy, down past Captain Cook, down past Kainaliu, before little sister Solei, down past Opihihale near the first and second lava flows, down past the gravestones that sat up against the pier the tsunami took. Down past the old graves in yards against the moving black tar road.

Where did they bury the horse, Solei wonders. I tell her I don’t know, but I remember the talk of lava tubes. The island is glass, basalt, cooled in shapes of pāhoehoe and ‘a‘ā that knew the undersides of our bare feet as children, hollowed with caves and secrets. People place objects in the land, things they want to keep near, things they want to forget.

Why doesn’t Lita love us, Solei asks. Solei speaks of her own children, says she can’t understand Lita’s pain, wouldn’t understand if her children didn’t love each other. She can’t understand Lita’s refusal to know us, her sisters. Solei speaks and I take the memory and push it against the black poly tarps Lita has placed around her house in Ocean View. The black of the tarp runs around the small farm she shares with thirteen dogs. The small farm that she lets no one into. She has placed signs against the poly tarp. They are warnings. She fears the world. She knows people watch. I say some familiar words to Solei, some words of Lita’s illness and our fear of her pain. I run with her fear against the thought of whales who visit the bones in their graveyards, the fall. The fall, big cubed bones against the ocean floor. Whales visit their dead. I run Lita’s pain against destruction, the destruction of land that has destroyed the ‘Ō‘ō, the bird and spirit, the history. I run it against my words as a child—the hurting words of an older sister. My words to a sister. I run with it against Lita’s pain. I place the fear of Lita’s loss to her illness against the lehua and pluck the flower so it will rain.


Rain Wright writes creative nonfiction, fiction, and poetry. Rain was raised on Hawai‘i Island in a redwood house in Hōnaunau between Filipino Clubhouse Road and Telephone Exchange Road in a multi-artistic family. Rain finds many of her stories by mapping her memories along Māmalahoa Highway to the markers that people use to give directions on Hawai‘i Island. She received her BA and her MA in English with a focus in creative writing from the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Rain is currently a Ph.D. candidate at University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Rain has been published in Hawai‘i Review, Mud Season Review, Connotations Press: An Online Artifact, Madras Magazine, and Summit Magazine, among others. She won the 2014 University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa Biography Prize for her work “A Way With Water.” In 2015, she won second place in the Ian MacMillan Writing Awards for a creative nonfiction piece titled “Shrines.” She is currently the Creative Nonfiction Editor for Hawai‘i Review. Rain has an obsession with the ocean. She knows it connects everything.

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