May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Posted on May 18 2023


Here are some extracts of poems from a book titled Yobo: Korean American Writing in Hawaii, published 2003. I have selected some short excerpts germane to life on islands in the Pacific in honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. All the authors are of Korean heritage in Hawaii.

“Here where salt gathers between shell and moss stones

where birds rise off water like great winds in passing

where the sea tosses brilliance of cold stars was I born”

—from Makai First Light by Willyce Kim

“Over the years our beach has served as every possible body

of water necessary to life – embryonic sac, birth canal, baptistry,

bathtub, fishpond, septic tank, sensory deprivation tank.

The ebb and flow of our lives fill its wading pools with unwept

tears, tears that wash out to sea and return with every tide.”

—from Family Plot by Robert Pennybacker whose mother’s grandparents came to Hawaii from Korea to work and live on the sugarcane and pineapple plantations around 1905

“It was another long walk through the sugarcane fields of Hawaii

where he worked for eighteen years, cutting the sweet stalks with a

machete. His right arm grew disproportionately large to the rest of

his body. He could hold three grandchildren in that arm.”

—from Easter: Wahaiawa, 1959 by Cathy Song

“Up through the crust, hot rock flows from the mantle –

we can’t say exactly how. Cold rock sinks. In the Pacific, my home

slides north over the hot spot, whose sister spots have birthed oil

and diamonds. From sea life, oil. It takes a diamond to cut a diamond. All life begins here.”

—from Hot Rock Rising by Debra Kang Dean


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