Dennis Maulsby

KE KAHUA PILI KAI[1] 1946

I see your dead lovers rise from the surf.
They’ve shed their shrapnel-torn uniforms,
broken rifles, and bullet-flowered canteens.

You watched them ship out to war. Boys and men
returned now. Back from bloody coral atolls,
rusted iron bottom bays, and malarial jungles.
Back from Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Kwajalein,
New Guinea, Saipan, Leyte, Iwo…

In shadow legions, they schooled three thousand
miles through plankton-clouded depths, down
seven-mile deep Pacific rifts, souls fragile
translucent jellyfish, blue in the bottom cold.

They rose on your tidal surge, past finger coral,
bright-eyed damsel-fish, and moon jellies; over reefs
of rice coral patrolled by black-tipped sharks.

Finally to feel sea grass caress their calves,
wading among the mangrove trees, scattering
archers, grayheads, yellow tangs, and silver monos.

They stand naked, warm in your shallows,
bleached muscles jeweled with rainbow mist.
Chalk pale eyes wait. Gone are the wounds.
Limbs and shattered spirit-flesh have knit together.

A turtle shell comb draws your black
coconut-oiled hair over each coral-tipped breast.
You smile as you place an okika blossom behind
your left ear — just for them.

And you will sing, dance the hula kahiko,
and love each one, until they depart
on that last long journey to peace