Aloha ‘aina; aloha ‘oe

The astronomers are trying to build another telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea.
The Hawaiians are protesting.

In my mind,
I am shuffling journal articles,
trying to look busy
when she asks whether or not
I consider myself to be white.

When I was a child, being Hawaiian meant-
I was the hula hoop champion of the neighborhood,
my skin changed colors with the seasons
and no one could pronounce my name.

“My father is from Hawai’i”
I would declare, proudly.
Although his being from anywhere might have served the same purpose
in justifying my difference.

When I was 19 being Hawaiian meant-
I moved to the Big Island to study my heritage in a classroom
where I learned I wasn’t really Hawaiian at all,
speaking with edges like one haole girl from the mainland.

Suddenly everyone pronounced my name correctly,
but I had a hard time recognizing it.
Such an alien sound- my name,
wearing the accent it was born in.

I fell in love with a French astronomer
who liked to call me his local girl
as we explored the island, and drank Longboard Lager
bound by our mutual strangeness on the black sand.

I try to explain to her, to Sarah,
the way the word heritage
is broken glass in my clutching hands.
That being Hawaiian has little to do with blood.

Kamehameha was a monarch, not a dragon ball-Z phenomenon.
And truly being Hawaiian
means being connected to the land,
the ‘aina of Hawai’i.

But my island is not that shade of green,
my ocean is made of sagebrush, not saltwater,
my blood runs thick with the asphalt of Interstate 80,
and my hands are rough from limestone, not lava rock.

There is no moisture in my air.
There are no beaches in Cheyenne.
Although, there is a volcano
vast beneath my feet.

Perhaps I am a daughter of Pele.
If only when I dance
when I rage,
when I grieve-
as if there is a difference between the three.

The astronomers are trying to build another telescope on the summit of Mauna Kea.
The Hawaiians are protesting.

And in my mind,
I am shuffling journal articles
with pale golden hands
when she asks whether or not
I consider myself to be white.

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