Friday, February 20, 2009

My Card

Photo: Diego Fernandes 2009

I know you’ve heard the system,
The Big System is failing,
Some banker messed up.

I keep getting notices, letters,
From the bank, my bank, about
Breaches in security.

They ask me if I want
A new card, an unbroken card,
An unbreached card.

They tell me they can solve
The Problem of Security
Giving me a new card.

I went, I bought, I played
The old card is brand new.
The new card’s on its way.

A new card from the zombies
Walking the dead walk
Up and down Wall Street.

Are you ready?
The system is failing,
Or so I hear.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Photo: Diego Fernandes 2008

I can’t remember exactly where the place was, except someplace northwest of Pearl and Waianae and it was ‘locals only’. I couldn’t tell you anyway because I was laying down in the back of the station wagon on the way and I couldn’t see where the turn-offs were. If I had seen the road, I still couldn’t tell you because Kalani and his buds only let me go because I had enough money to rent three boards, and the spot was “the spot” and the break supposedly didn’t have a name. Well, it had a name to them, just not a name to the wide world, like the famous North Shore spots.

I actually ended up renting four boards for five guys, which was so typical of Kalani. He would say, “Oh no, there’s just gonna be you and me. Nobody else. I’ll have plenty of time to show you the ropes so you can get the place wired.” At first, I was naïve enough to believe him, but I got wise. If he said two, it meant at least four; if he said four, it meant ten and it didn’t matter if it was people or money or screws that fell on the floor.

I thought at first maybe he just consistently underestimated everything. I got wise to that too. Whenever I questioned his numbers he always answered, “Don’t worry ‘bout it, bud. Don’t worry ‘bout it. Too much worry’ll kill you. ‘Specially you haoles.”

That was another of his tactics. People were drawn to him because he abused them. I know that doesn’t make much sense but he would call you racist names to your face and you would take it as honesty or something. He said haoles made worry a science, whereas native Hawaiians were the soul of laidbackness. Nothing could bother a Hawaiian. Everything bothered anyone else, especially Mainlanders like myself. “You always wanna know how far, how much, how many…but you need to take it light, brah.” Kalani never talked any kind of pidgeon-surfer slang like that anywhere but near home. Everywhere else, his English was almost punctilious except for his use of ‘Bud’.

I remember talking to him once when he was home and drunk on Saporo beer and asking him about what it felt like to be a ‘real’ Hawaiian. I was reading a book about the overthrow of the last queen at the time and the whole concept had surprised me. The book had been written by, if not a Hawaiian nationalist, then at least a sympathizer and it revealed a different history than I was taught at school in California. Kalani muttering expletives under his breath about the haoles and the puka people, his word for Asians, because he said you could always find them in lines and they all looked alike, said, “fuckin’ haoles everywhere …” Then he made a slip, “even me! I got mostly haole in me, brah!” He giggled a little and then went back to swearing about pukas.

He didn’t look like a Hawaiian or a Polynesian at all. He had wavy dark chestnut colored hair and his eyes and eyebrows were the same color. He had beautiful teeth and a hesitant smile set in incredibly pale skin freckled with spots that were also the same color as his hair. It was actually kind of disturbing to look at him; the color looked dyed or fake because it was so even and there was so much of it. It wasn’t that he was bad looking or ugly or anything, cause he really wasn’t. He just looked kind of over-the-top dramatic. Intense would be the best description, really intense.

Kalani also had a thin, hairless and very short body, barely topping five feet and there was always sloppy casualness to the way he dressed. His hats always had odd bends in them and everything he wore had sat too long in a dryer with dozen of wrinkles running in odd directions. But he always wore leather shoes and they were always polished to a mirror finish. I tried to tease out the reason for those brightly polished shoes on a couple of occasions and he just shrugged me off.

Kalani claimed to be a Christian and spent a lot of time chatting up girls using religion as a line of attack. The rest of the time he spent trying to get them in the sack. He hung around regularly with one of four or five guys who he called his ‘buds’. All of those guys told excuse-like stories about why they were Kalani’s friend and they all complained about him whenever he wasn’t around, because he just seemed to absorb energy and resources. Oh yeah, he always had good ideas, but why did someone always have an accident or get in trouble?

One guy said while watching Kalani from a distance, “don’t go out with that fucker, you’ll end up in the hospital or the morgue. See this scar? That came from playing ‘follow-the-Kalani’”. I wanted to know what had happened and the guy, his name was Tyler, told me he had climbed on a highway bumper and fell off, tearing the skin off his leg.

“What? Did Kalani knock you off or something?”

“No,” he stated flatly, still staring at Kalani’s antics in the distance, “no, I climbed up and then I fell off.”

“Okay, I’m confused. How did Kalani have anything to do with it?” The guy was staring at Kalani with what looked like near hatred.

“He didn’t have to do anything. He was just there. It’s like he’s bad juju, or something. Stuff like that happens whenever he’s around. People will be having fun, that asshole shows up and suddenly someone’s being eaten by a shark.”

“Uh…like…um…bad luck or something?”

“Or something, alright.”

I didn’t pursue it with Tyler, but I got really interested for some reason and later asked one of the real ‘buds’ if he had had something like that happen. His name was Joey.

“Oh yeah! It happens to everybody that hangs around with him. Just bad shit, ya know?” he was nodding his head emphatically.


“Shit, yeah! That little fuck and Pat and me went down to the International Market Place to score some pot and there was a bust goin’ down when we got there. We just thought it was funny, ya know? We were watchin’ an’ shit, laughin’ and suddenly this big Samoan cop is wrestling with one of the guys they're trying to arrest. The guy takes off at a run and the cop throws … THROWS his gun at the guy and hits Pat in the side of his head! He needed…fuck…he needed like twenty stitches or something.”

“Well, where was Kalani?”

“He was standing next to Pat.”

“Yeah, okay, but nothing happened to you, right?”

“Not that time.’

“So what happened to you? I mean, you know, when Kalani was around?”

He suddenly looked a little glassy and got kind of pale, “It’s kinda hard to talk about.”

I made a laughing sound that wasn’t really laughing and waited.

There was a long silence while Joey just stared off toward the Pali highway.

“So, are you going to tell me? Or what?”

“I’m not … it’s kind of embarrassing, ya know.”

“Did Kalani do something?”

“Oh no. No, it wasn’t anything like that. He never does anything. He’s just there when shit happens and a lot of shit happens when he’s around. A lotta shit!”

“So tell me!” I tried to keep my voice neutral like I wanted to know but didn’t care if he told me.

“Remember that girl, Angela?”

“Angela? The one … you met at Kaneohe?”

“No, that was … what the fuck was her name? Anyway … no … Angela came from the mainland. Was over here on vacation. Long brown hair. Funny. Was looking for a job at one of the hotels.”

“Oh yeah! Now I remember! About five-seven, brown hair, blue eyes?”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Anyway, me, Angela, Tyler and that slut he was hanging out with and Kalani and some rental he’d found were all supposed to go up to the Pali and then over to North shore. Well, first Tyler and co. decided they were going to party with some tourists on a boat over at Ala Wai and Kalani asked if he could use Tyler’s car because they weren’t going to need it if they were going to be on a boat and Tyler, you know this was after he fucked up his leg falling off that highway rail, said who’s going to drive, and Kalani said it didn’t matter, he could or I could, whatever Tyler wanted. Well, I wasn’t there and Tyler was scared Kalani would fuck up his car so he said, okay, but Joey drives and has to meet us over by the harbor. And Kalani says sure, sure and then he asks, can I ride with you over there ‘cuz it’d be closer to where he was going to pick up his date. Well, Tyler says okay and he and that slut and Kalani all get in the car to go over to Ala Wai, only they never get there because some asshole runs a red and smashes in the side of Tyler’s car and breaks the sluts leg. So now Tyler has to go to the hospital with her and, you know, Kalani, once he decides he’s goin’ someplace, he’s goin’, but he’s late to his date so she won’t go. So he calls me and tells me Tyler and the slut are in the hospital but he still wants to go and do I know anyone with a car?”

“Oh fuck! Angela?”

“Yep.” “She was driving a rental,” and here Joey started talking in a girly voice. “Oh that’s okay Joey, I’ll drive, I don’t mind, I hope Tyler and the slut will be okay and get better soon and blah, blah, blah. And I’m like, shut up, you idiot, don’t say anything.” Joey was kind of laughing and waving his hands remembering everything.

“So then Angela and I get in her rental and head over to pick up Kalani and drive up Pali Highway. Big mistake. Everything is okay driving to get Kalani but as soon as he gets in the car shit starts happening. Angela sideswipes a cement bumper in the parking lot scratching the hell out of the fender, then we have to stop to put up the roof because it’s started to rain and the fucking thing gets stuck half-way up! Well, we finally get the goddam roof up but only after we’re all soaked and I’m like, shit, ya know, and Angela is pissed off because something else got fucked up. I don’t remember what, and then Kalani tries to calm things down and Angela says,” and Joey breaks into his girly voice again, “Oh Kalani, that’s so sweet! You are such a sweet heart. That’s so sweet! You are so wonderful and blah, blah, blah. And it really pissed me off, but then she starts asking him if he thought she and I should get married!! And I thought, FUCK! I just met you lady, I like you and all but Jesus fucking Christ, what the fuck! And asking Kalani, that was what really sucked! Like he would know about shit. Anyway, I got madder and madder and when we got up to the Lookout, I kept getting madder and made a stupid joke about jumping off or something and that dumb bitch said, go ahead Mighty Mouse, let’s see how well you fly.”

Joey turned really red just then and stopped talking. He just sat shaking his head and then grabbed his neck like it hurt. “This always bugs me when I think about this.” He just held his neck and sat quietly for a while and then said, “Fuck it.”

“I don’t know why I did it, okay? I just was so mad, I guess. Anyway, she said that Mighty Mouse shit and I popped. I turned around and ran to the edge and jumped over.”

“Fuck,” I said quietly.

“Yeah…man…I just ran and jumped. I heard her scream and Kalani yelled something and then, no shit, the wind, the fuckin’ wind, blew me ass over melon back up and right on top of fuckin’ Angela. Well, my legs hit her in the head or something and I went down hard on my shoulders and neck and smacked my head against the ground. Knocked myself colder than snot. It was fucked up. Angela caught something, maybe my foot or something on her lip and split it; had to have stitches. Got a huge fucking black eye. I got a dislocated shoulder and the doctor said I was lucky I didn’t break my fuckin’ neck. Well, he didn’t say ‘fuckin,’” Joey laughed a little, “and her elbow or her head or something, caught me in the balls as I went over her head and all I can say is I’m glad I was knocked out when it happened because when I came to all I could think of was that somebody had played a round of golf using my balls with the worst fucking handicap in the world.” Joey was a caddy part time at one of the golf courses.

“Youch!” I cringed in sympathetic pain, “Fuuuuck!”

“Dude. I was in the hospital for two days or some shit.”

I was still cringing and holding my crotch. “Jesus.”

“That little shit, Kalani, just stood there and watched me fly by too. His fucking stupid-ass, bent melon cover didn’t even come off. And ya wanna know what? He was fucking pissed that he couldn’t go to North Shore! That little scrap merchant asshole was fucking mad cause he couldn’t do what he wanted to do! I don’t know why the fuck I even still talk to that little fucker.”

Trying to be humorous, I said, “good ideas?”

“Fuck his ideas.”

That was months before the surfing trip and I had a lot of time to worry about what might happen to someone. But I worried more about Kalani’s numbers. Just you and me, he said. I figured that would mean four people. There were five. Negotiating on surfboard rentals, he said one because we would share. Kalani was always saying ‘Buds’ share. You weren’t a ‘Bud’ if you didn’t share. Pat asked him one day if that meant underwear too, because Kalani’s would be really tight on anybody else.

That was the only time I ever saw Kalani lose his temper and he expressed himself clearly but exactly like the boy who owns the ball. Kind of like, you have to be nice to me or I’ll take my ball and go home. The oddest thing was, it worked somehow. Pat listened and even though Kalani never drove, never helped carry stuff, never organized anything, and very, very rarely ever paid for anything, and his company was, well, dangerous, he came up with idea after idea after idea. I’m pretty sure no one exactly liked him, but Kalani’s ideas seemed to be gold, even if they mostly benefited Kalani.

There seemed to be only a couple of things Kalani really liked to do and one was surf. He wasn’t that great but he really liked it. He had had the idea of this trip for a long time and he got Pat to organize it, Joey to drive and me to pay. When I asked Pat why I had to rent surfboards when everyone had at least one board, I got the distinct impression a scam was involved when he told me to ask Kalani. Kalani would never have cheated his friends by selling their boards but he wasn’t above “losing” a board store’s sticks, especially if his name wasn’t on the rental slip. I made it really clear to Kalani that if I had to pay for rentals, I was going to pick the store. He tried to insist on some whack job place where there was a great deal because it was low season and I told him he could pay for a board or bring his own. He just gave me that dark red stare and shrugged.

When Joey and Pat showed up in the station wagon, Kalani started grinning because Tyler was with them. “The more the merrier!” He always liked it when unexpected people showed up.

“There’s only four boards, numb nuts! You told me four, dumbass!”

“Whatever.” That was Kalani’s answer. Whatever. I hate that shit.

“Whatever means you, dickweed, are staying on the beach, till someone decides to come in!”

“Fuck you, haole, you can stay in.”

“Let’s get something straight, butt munch, I fucking rented the boards and I’m fucking going out. I could give a shit what you do.” So I grabbed one of the boards and my leash and went straight into the water, which was fucking stupid but I’d gone crazy and wasn’t thinking.

None of those guys were unfriendly toward me but likewise they also weren’t real buds to me. They were Kalani’s buds. Joey and Pat were the best surfers with Tyler aggressively ready to try anything but without their skill. Kalani was okay, I guess, but he always seemed to wait for a certain kind of wave, letting plenty of good ones go.

They knew this break and I didn’t. It was a reef break but it was only a short paddle out and that day the waves weren’t really very good. They headed straight for the reef then jacked up fast and broke more on top of the reef than across it. The tide was somewhere midway between high and low but working toward low, which made the situation worse. I didn’t know the break; good-sized waves breaking on reef, upset, not good.

Of course, I had to be the dumbass. There was a couple of ways to get past the reef and I took the worst. I was sure of it when Pat got out ahead of me even though I’d started first. Naturally, he had to rub it in when he told me I should have gone the other way. Like I knew there was another way. Then Joey arrived and said the same thing, which pissed me off even more.

I could see Kalani and Tyler having a conversation, I guessed about who was going out first and Kalani must have won the argument because Tyler just went over and sat on the tailgate of the car.

Joey had already caught a wave and rode it right through the opening in the reef and Pat hooted for him. Pat asked me if I wanted to go ahead of him and I said no because I wanted to watch him go through that break in the reef to get a feel for where to start and in a couple of minutes Pat caught one and without any tricks sailed right through.

By that time Kalani was through the opening and outside. He didn’t say anything to me but he was looking at me with an expression I’d never seen before. It’s hard to describe but once you’d seen it you’d never forget. He was just looking at me like he was reading a book or something, maybe like he’d just seen what he wanted for lunch. His face was totally calm, empty, really, of everything. His dark red eyes were just looking at me. I was a little spooked.

It changed when I asked him if he wanted to go first. He just shook his head and said, “Go, bud.”

I think I was more spooked than I realized because I caught the first wave, the good one, too late and missed it as it passed under me so I just kept paddling like a barney and caught the next, which had me way out of position but I caught it anyway and did a really good pop up. But my desire to get away from Kalani had me on a collision course for the reef and sure enough I could see it coming. I don’t know why I didn’t just kick out or dive off the board but I didn’t. I just didn’t.

I felt the wave jack under me; saw the reef ahead and an area that was completely exposed by the ebbing tide. I knew I was going to wipe out. My balance was good, my trim was good, but I was going to wipe out on a reef on my first and last ride of the day. Then the road got really smooth, too smooth. The wave just dropped out, vanished, from underneath me. I still had my balance and forward momentum. I just had no wave. I was flying.

I even had momentary feeling that maybe I could fly completely over the reef and land in the lagoon on the other side but I didn’t. I was in a sort of crouched Silver Surfer position when I hit the coral. There was a grinding noise and I heard a kind of cruuunnch, then a loud popping snap. My momentum carried me in a run right off the nose of the board and onto the coral. There was an immediate stinging sensation just before another breaking wave caught me from behind and pushed me further on the coral and sent the board whizzing by my head. At that point I could feel the coral digging into my hands as well as my feet and then just as suddenly, I was swimming in the lagoon with the board floating upside down next to me.

With the salt water stinging my hands and feet, I reached out to grab the board and realized the leash was still caught on some coral so I painfully tugged it loose and in doing so, I guess the board was being pushed or something because when the leash came loose the tail hit me in the back of the head. Not hard, but enough to give me a bump. When I turned my body to right the board and slide onto its deck I noticed the skeg had snapped off.

I was about halfway back to the beach when I turned my head and saw Kalani come flying through the opening in the reef.

I had to pay for the broken longboard, and I only got a slight infection from the coral cuts. Joey and Pat stopped hanging with Kalani and I don’t know what happened to Tyler.

The last time I saw Kalani he tried to get me to give him a hotel room I had rented because he had a ‘girl friend’ and his new buds were playing poker in a room they rented together. I just told him to rent his own room and he told me I wasn’t a bud.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Photo: Diego Fernandes 2008

The flaming moon chases my feet
Through that entire slippery world.

I heard some exotic scents lingering
As I climbed toward scattered light.

The odor was flying there yesterday
And tomorrow it will again.

Thoughts slipping and tripping on guilts,
Trailing shadows, pieces of nights I don’t sleep.

I told you my insomnia was back,
At least, I meant to tell you.

All that shadow and light
Keep tearing at my frontiers.

Phantasms fingering the rags
Fluttering from my failings.

It’s like that top I used to have
Just jerk the string and spin.

Every little sound keeps following me
Trying to shoulder out others.

You want to know where
All those guys came from.

You don’t know the poet,
That’s what you said you wanted.

Well, you didn’t use the words “I want”
But people don’t, do they?

Maybe there was some underlying anger
And I didn’t tell you everything.

Naturally, no one tells everything.
No one ever has the time.

The big things really get me,
But it’s the little things that won’t let up.

Intellection cut off somehow,
Orphaned in an overcrowded space.

My scattered mental notes and memory
Stuffed into that one solitary room.

I think it started when I was trying
To reach maximum efficiency.

I pulled everything into that one room,
Everything within an easy arm’s reach.

I always knew there were other spaces,
Other rooms, other places for storage.

After a while though, I forgot about them
Until one day I banged my head on the ceiling.

Yeah, I was sitting at the top
Of my very own midden.

Oh, I invited some in to look around
Tried to interest them in the sights.

But mostly, they’d look around and say,
“Say! Think you could keep something for me?”

And then they’d give me something
I’d given them years ago as a gift.

It’s okay, they’d say with stiff smiles,
I don’t need this anymore.

And I’d stand there stupidly,
Holding a relic of a dead friendship.

Anyway, I banged my head on the ceiling
And there was a kind of booming sound.

Wow, I thought, that’s right!
I forgot there are more rooms in here.

There are other rooms in my house,
I can tell from hollow-sounding knocks.

So I started moving things around,
And there were some very upset sounds.

I found some little side rooms and
Large closets with hanging skeletons.

Then I remembered, really remembered
There was another floor to this place.

Well, right, I thought, of course there is!
And I looked quizzically at the ceiling.

Well, there’s an upper room alright, but
The damn thing’s locked and the key’s lost.

So I wade through all those souvenirs
While I’m looking for a crowbar.

But my long and curious glance keeps
Breaking ground-floor windows.

All those views keep falling inside
Cluttering up the clutter.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Photo: Diego Fernandes 2007

Vejo-me estar

Eu mesmo que está

Eu mesmo sozinho

Em uma planície do deserto

Na fora do tempo

Estou entre

O futuro dos futuros

Eu vejo a passagem do passado

Eu bebi este momento para molhar a poeira

O momento molhou a poeira

Agora molharia a poeira

Poeira do está do ritmo dos sem

Nada que nada está molhado

O tempo é poeira agora

Nossas vidas estavam molhadas

Mâs o tempo e você negar-me-iam


A vida quebrada afastada

Tempo passado

Você passou

Esqueceu-o mim

Esqueceu-o tempo

Você esqueceu o futuro

Seu passado prevê seu futuro

O passado prevê o futuro

O futuro faz o tempo

O tempo é você

Você está lá

Estou aqui

Friday, February 6, 2009


Ave Maria, gratia plena;

Another good friend died, just shrank away
From cancer, like all the others.

Still making little jokes last week,
Now she has stopped breathing.

Dominus tecum:

Mary wasn’t the most tragic case,
Nor one who passed quickly, easily.

She had cancer for so long,
We forgot how sick she was.

Benedicta tu in mulieribus

She had health care with a big HMO,
Advertising smiles of health for years.

We get ‘em better and you enjoy ‘em longer.
Insure with us, live longer with us.

Et benedictus fructus ventris tui [Jesus].

Health Maintenance Organization with slogan,
Empty and hollow sounding like an oil drum.

Best put yourself in hospice care,
That’s what we recommended.

Sancta Maria, Mater Dei,

We do all that can be done.
We count this as a success story.

She made it through the treatments,
We did our part well.

Ora pro nobis peccatoribus,

HMO said more people are surviving
The big C, the dread C.

Is anyone alive today who
Hasn’t had a victim relative?

Great Aunt Nora, three grandparents,
Great Uncle, who else?

Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Before Napping

There’s always a promise that if
You sit long enough something will happen.

I’m sure whatever that is or was or must be
Is as close to death as not breathing.

I came to sit in this chair to write
About filling human needs and wants.

Well, more about my needs and wants
That need and want filling feeling.

So I hold up my hand and
Count on my fingers.

This may be important
So I enumerate.

First, I gotta breathe, I know this
But occasionally I forget.

Like when the sea is so clear,
I should be able to breathe it.

Second, I gotta eat, I think.
But I forget to do that too sometimes.

I have friends who ask me constantly
“How can you forget to eat?”

And they ask so incredulously,
I get embarrassed and stammer.

“Well, well, I don’t know…I”
Then I add a word that means forgot.

Third, I am pretty sure sleep is third.
I don’t sleep very well either.

I hear noises in the rooms and noises
Inside my head and then I think.

If darkness doesn’t wrap me up
Like a lightproof blanket, I’m awake.

All those little noises and little lights
May as well be poking me with little fingers.

Fourth might be those automatic things
We never notice unless we don’t do them.

Like moving and blinking and sweating
And feeling and excreting.

Now I hold up my fingers to start
Counting again but I don’t.

I want a lot of things like a car
That comes with a parking space.

I want an ocean beach with perfect waves
That comes with a new surfboard.

I want that little voice in my head
To come with an off switch.

So here I sit in this chair telling you
I didn’t sleep well and held my breath.

I ate something but forgot what it was.
But everything else; I did that.