Throw Net

by Jim Willis

Another local family pick-nick
at the old airport beach in Kona.
The uncle casts a round net
into the surf over a sandy shoal.

Someone taught him the mechanics of the throw–
the division of the folds, the drape, the posture.
He moves with the grace of ancestral gods
and spins the net like a web on the wind.

But it’s fish not art that feeds his family.
He’s caught their supper–seven moi,
once reserved for male chiefs
in the sovereign days of such distinctions.

His mother begs him to teach his nephew,
who really prefers hamburgers to fish.
She pressures the boy: It was your grandfather’s.
You know, you were named after him.

The uncle shows him again and again,
but the boy misjudges the ratio of the folds
and casts the net lopsided and short.
His grandmother broods over the problem.

The boy’s name is Kaimana. He knows
Mana and kai and a few other words,
but has never learned to speak Hawaiian.
He speaks and answers texts in Pidgin.

Another tremor—the third today.
Although she’s Christian, the grandmother knows
that Madame Pele has her moods.
Black , green, and yellow footed

`opihi shells around the island
clamp down on their home base scars.
She takes comfort in the elemental—
magma, rock, wind, wave.

Lava flows from the east rift zone,
and land is forged in the tub of the sea.
She steams the moi in green ti leaves,
but the boy will eat only mac and cheese.

 

Jim Willis grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana and graduated from Northwestern State College in Natchitoches, the oldest town in the Louisiana Purchase. He has a Masters in English from Tulane University and has published poems in The Tulane Review, DMQ Review, Ekphrasis, Melic Review, Snowy Egret, and Hawai`i Pacific Review. He won the 2003 Frith Press Open Chapbook Competition with a collection called The Darwin Point. He recently moved to Apalachicola, Florida (“the state with the prettiest name”) to be near his daughter, Ashley.

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