Kula Skylark

by Joseph Stanton

for Ali`i Chang

This bird, thatched to be unseen in grass,
scampers in Kula’s purpling rows of lavender,
searching for bugs and bits of seed.
It could be nothing more than an odd sparrow
sporting a flash of white at tail
for all we know or care, as we picnic in cool air,
steeped in last light and flowers.

But, when the skylark rises to its song,
singing up and up
till it’s almost out of sight,
a tiny dot chiming sharp, bell tones
towards a sweetly strange, elaborated crescendo
that can be heard for miles in the open air,
our minds fill with a rapture of lark,

Shelley’s blithe spirit whistles for us
high in the suddenly pink sky of this Pacific place—
while the ocean shimmers below,
beyond the coming lights of Lahaina.
Singing for us the skylark seems to be,
as Shakespeare was inspired to say on another island,
hymns at heaven’s gate.


Joseph Stanton’s books of poems are Things Seen (published in 2016), Imaginary Museum: Poems on Art, A Field Guide to the Wildlife of Suburban Oahu, Cardinal Points, and What the Kite Thinks: A Linked Poem (co-authored with Makoto Ōoka, Wing Tek Lum, and Jean Toyama). His non-poetry books include Looking for Edward Gorey, The Important Books: Children’s Picture Books as Art and Literature, Stan Musial: A Biography, and A Hawaii Anthology. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Harvard Review, New Letters, Antioch Review, Poetry East, Cortland Review, New York Quarterly, and many other magazines. His awards include the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award, the Cades Award for Literature, the Ka Palapala Pookela Award, the Ekphrasis Prize, and the James Vaughan Award for Poetry. He is a Professor of Art History and American Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He occasionally teaches “Starting with Art” workshops at Poets House in New York City and at the Honolulu Museum of Art.

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