Saturday, July 11, 2009

ON ACHIEVING TOTALITY



The last total eclipse I witnessed
was July 11, 1991, on the Big Island,
in the City of Refuge, from the heiau
of Pu`uhonua o Honaunau.

It was devastatingly awesome
that morning, a total eclipse of the sun.
People cheered, wept, hugged strangers,
got married on the beach in feather cloaks,
took another toke, and passed it on.

It was either a day of bad omens
or for unbelievably good luck. Twice blessed.
Who could choose? Totality had been achieved.
The sun turned into a diamond ring
in a double dawn dressed in adamantine skies.

In Keoneʻele Cove, where Hawai'ian royalty bathed—
to swim there was a crime, punishable by death—
I drifted with green sea turtles the size of boogieboards.
In a restless sea rising to the gravitational pull
of both sun and moon harnessed in unison,
a second darkness descended like an obsidian knife,
the dawn birds and fish all fell back to sleep.

Like clouds of bright fallen leaves at my feet,
schools of manini—striped convict tang—
caught red-handed in suspended animation,
were imprisoned by tide out of time.

The day before, I saw molten lava plunge into the sea,
and I stepped on newly minted earth.
My hiking boots melted, the surf belched acid rain,
but red-hot lava exploding in the waves
& the sun turn into a dark eye in a morning sky
were both equally an experience of a lifetime.

Between both days, I could not choose one,
I was a Solomon divided between two mothers.
My eyes had been twice burned by the birth of beauty.
And that vision had made me sandblind to the ordinary.
The apogee of my understanding of beauty, obsolete.





UMBRA, CITY OF REFUGE, HAWAII, 7/11/91


first draft

Last total eclipse I saw was on the Big Island, July 19, 1991. It was devastatingly awesome. People cheered, wept, got married, took another toke. I swam with sea turtles, as the fish all went back to sleep. The day before, I waked on newly minted earth as the lava plunged into the sea. My hiking boots melted, the sea belched acid rain, but watching red hot lava hit the sea & the sun turned into a dark eye in the sky

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