“EXPOUNDING THE DOUBTFUL POINTS”
Wing Tek Lum
Published with Permission
by Bamboo Ridge Press (1987)
(Inspired by Frank Chin)
When I see a pineapple,
I do not think of an exotic fruit sliced in rings
to be served with ham,
more the summer jobs at the cannery
driving a forklift or packing wedges on the line.
When I hear the name “Duke,”
I envision someone other than that movie cowboy,
gravel-voiced, a true grit idol of the late night set;
instead I see a white-haired surfer by his long board,
palms so large, flashing smiles along the beach.
When I think of a man-of-war,
it is not the name of a Triple Crown horse
pacing a stud farm that comes to mind first;
rather I picture the Portuguese kind
whose stings must be salved by rubbing sand.
When I use the word “packages,”
it is usually not a reference to the parcels
waiting for me at the post office,
rather the paper sacks I get
from the supermarket to lug my groceries home.
When I read the term “Jap,”
the image of a kamikaze pilot now turned to Sony exports
is not what I see;
mainly it is the Sand Island roundup and those old men
who still wince long after the 442nd has marched back.
When I think of Hawai‘i,
I do not fancy myself lolling under palm trees,
a backdrop of verdant cliffs, caressed by a balmy breeze;
instead I give thanks for classmates and our family graves,
this unique universe that we have called our home.
AN ALOHA ONLY I COULD FEEL
It was hot; there was little time.
We had come from so far away
without the certainty
that we could find him.
He had just returned from the fields
to avoid the noontime heat
and we arrived unannounced.
He was my father’s cousin,
of the branch that stayed behind.
I was not the first from our side
to visit him,
and we had corresponded before.
We talked about the usual things,
his crops, the factories
where his sons now worked,
the dead that were our common bond.
Maybe I was tired then,
from all the travelling,
for after a while
I did not know what else to say.
Here was an old man, darkly tanned,
whose whole world,
his daily life, his hopes and fears,
were so unlike mine.
What did he know of how I lived,
my business, all my learning?
And yet suddenly
something welled up in me,
a sense of pride, of being special,
that I belonged to him
and him to me,
that no one else would ever have,
an aloha only I could feel,
because of blood,
and of those dead we talked about
who loved and cared for him
just as they did for me.
Wing Tek Lum is a Honolulu businessman and poet. Bamboo Ridge Press has published his two collections of poetry, “Expounding the Doubtful Points” (1987) and “The Nanjing Massacre: Poems” (2012).