Cultural Warriors Go to Waialua on a Saturday

For Gordon Lee and Jeff Acido, co-warriors on the road

Cultural warriors go
to Waialua on a Saturday.

It is the three of us seeking
what we can seek from where
the blinding light of the midmorning sun
goes in these tropes of our people's faith
in the future as in themselves
but who need to be told in frankness
that somewhere, on the lonely road
that snakes through our public grief,
there is where a late lunch awaits.

It is the day after the profuse thanks
had been given in the annual ceremony
that we do to appease what memory's
remembering ghosts cannot propitiate
to make us see what we all look for,
like the bellows striking it quick
with the vast verdant land
carpeting what alluring landscape
we have before us, its offer of calming sea
a suffering we can afford to imagine
as we spend past upturned rows
and rows of furrowed fields
red in their welcome of fierce rain
and fiercer wind even as they await
for some caring Ilokano farmhands
to come sing to them the sacred songs
of old to give them peace and quiet
or, if luck is not on their side,
some enterprising capitalists from other places
who will steal the scene from us,
actors and story-tellers of endless events
swallowed up by what the Waianae mountains
can hide in the bosom of the Makua valley
or what money can erase from the raging
lifelines of our hands, we who have come here
to find something salving and healing
only to be told that the shore has all the fierce
clouds to carry all the remnants
of what profit does to make us forget
our Hawaiian pain.

We get to Waialua just on time
before the day is done for those seeking
what cannot be sought in some soul food
we all remember: two roasted chickens
cooked the Ilokano way
or some such other means
by Ilokano hands that dream of freedom
from what us cultural warriors talk about
in between our learned silences
to let in what living language
can fill in the spaces-between
our warriors' fantasizing selves to stage
in our suddenly famished minds
what better way to imagine the setting
for an apt phrase that finally,
hopefully emancipates.

This work we do
is not for the weak-hearted,
we tell ourselves while we summon
our strength to down the fowls
in whose death we get some life.

We divide the chickens in half
and after thanking all the ancient spirits
that gaily lurk from behind us
and from all over after throwing
to them a ball of rice
a sliver of the roasted meat
a drop of water
to the grass reaching out
to our tired feet and called out
to all those who have died
to come, come partake
of our life's offering,
we begin the ritual of feeding
our bodies with what sustenance
can offer to wage one more revolution
from our guilty hands.

We have talked a lot,
we say, in between
our practiced bourgeoise way
of appreciating what savory food is for
apart from this exercise
in masticating, one small chew
at a time.

We draw from there a deconstruction
a language that liberates,
the one we use or perhaps need
to fend off the enemy
a language that swats bulging flies
attempting to take part in our meal
of chickens, laughters, hopes.

We remember we are warriors
and after the putting away of the crumbs
we rest our back on the weathered benches
while the cool breeze makes us dream
so sweetly one sweet dream,
one about a revolution
with our warriors' fists unclenched
or its redeeming absence.

A Solver Agcaoili
Waialua, Nov 29/2009

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