There are things folded between us I could never describe.
Last time I went to Maui I came back craving a cigarette.
I wanted something familiar, to remind me.
I bought lemons and tobacco from the deli.
In the cold, my breath forms shapes in the air.
Here there are many streets, leading to other streets.
There are murals I wish I could snap a picture of but the bus rolls by too fast.
I wonder if my brother’s at work today, or fishing in the sun?
I picture him in Grandma Jane’s backyard, mountain fixed in the distance.
Last time I was back, her gardenias weren’t in bloom.
Small green vase by the bathroom sink empty.
I’ve lived in three places, in one I fell in love.
I don’t know which to call home.
Sometimes the brownstones and potted plants make me feel I could stay here forever.
If the streets always felt this new, this different.
A friend visits Hawai‘i and posts pictures of the blue water.
She writes I can smell so many different kinds of flowers right now!
The East Coast. I try out the shapes of the words with my mouth.
Everyone shares their anecdotes with me.
If you don’t think New York is the center of the world you shouldn’t live here, a man says.
I can understand how it could feel that way.
Capital’s dictates privilege this city.
My driver says Here, you have opportunities you couldn’t find anywhere else.
He tells me he’s from South Africa.
Tells me it’s beautiful, but there is lots of crime.
I tell him in Maui the weather stays pretty much the same year-round.
I think about how it always smells like flowers there, but I don’t say it.
I say I know what he means about opportunities.
I send my family pictures of me in my winter coat.
Everyone cries on the train at some point, someone tells me my first week here.
Through the subway windows, the skyline seems to represent something.
It’s easy to forget you’re not in the center of the world here sometimes.
That there is no center, that actually the world is mostly covered in water.
In my seven months of research, I’ve found one thing true:
Everyone cries on the train.
for Charli Scott
one thousand paper cranes unfold
like sea birds circling & descending
north shore cliffgrass. search party on a nowhere road,
distant strain of a bone whistle.
the gods watch black smoke unfold in disapproval.
from which stunned midnight does blood emerge,
clutch sun tight to its chest as it sinks?
wriggling school of fish shattered
into fragments of light, far beyond
the jagged rock edge, fallen pine
needles rotting by the guard rail.
you, the far beyond, field of sugar cane
shimmering the year before the mill closed.
mud suckled roots of abandoned trucks.
fishing lantern strung up at a backwoods kegger,
weed smoke blessing the air above
like incense lit in your honor. you, white spiral
dissolving in the air above, every light breeze
auspicious symbol of your presence.
rainbow eucalyptus & roadside graves.
you, dissolving into otherworld, crowned
wild with ginger & ferns.
your hair indistinguishable from the ‘awapuhi,
bright red & glowing above the ocean.
Photograph of Lark Omura by Jessica Trost.