Wednesday, June 8, 2016

The flowers

There is room for collective dreaming, one of Beatrix's favorite storytellers Leslie Marmon Silko tells of her legacy with story, as a self-correcting one. Among the Pueblo people, everyone -- children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, cousins, outlaws, and holy ones -- was encouraged to be part of the listening, and the telling; amendments were welcomed. Contradictions? No problem, bring 'em on Silko reports.1 The Old People sought a collective rather than a singular truth. And then there was Manu Meyer whose early writing, and collection of kupuna wisdom and stories gathered in Ho'oulu: Our Time of Becoming that reminded Beatrix of Hawaiians' fondness for ambiguity.

How fitting that her Uncle should show up with the flowers.

The smell of puakenikeni was new to Alexa, but the sound of pidgin was not. "Where do you keep your lei needles, and thread?" Her voice, low and rich was still not much more than a whisper."My aunty on my mom's side is Hawaiian-Chinese and lives in Kalihi Valley, on O'ahu. Momi's Leis, on Maunakea Street. Leis and pidgin are in the blood. The language as much the lei, as the flowers." A poet, ha! Beatrix was waning in strength and drew more often on the tanks of oxygen during the past year but her hearing remained finely tuned. She turned to catch the young woman's eye, and mimed "I'll get 'em."

Alexa was a beautiful girl dimples, on either side of shapely lips, showed up when she smiled. A small silver ring thread through her nose. She accentuated her eyes with a finely drawn liner and shaped her brows into tipped feathers. Her long sleeved nylon top was skin tight, concealing tattoos except for the arches that escaped around the neckline. She was full-bodied, round like a butternut squash an ipu. Leslie Mills finally noticed the ink black waves of the tattoo, and nodded at the obvious kinship drawing Alexa into place. "What's your full name, Alexa?"

"Alexa Eucebia Chang. Mostly though I go by Alexa E." The middle name was an unusual one for a woman of twenty or twenty one, old name. Leslie made a mental note, 'Google Eucebia.' "Eucebia was my great-grandmother's name. Filipina, old country. According to my dad the name comes from the Bible and means holy, or very pious." The rolling of her milk chocolate eyes made Leslie giggle. It was a sound she enjoyed, and as she erased the mental note to explore the name, she replaced it: 'more giggles.' And, the poet also reads minds. There's a word for that, but, one Leslie Mills had misplaced.

How long had it been since either woman reached for the long open-hook of lei needles and the heavy thread? Bea knew exactly where she kept the old metal box. "I'll be right back Uncle." Lifting the small blonde dog from her lap, she resettled him onto the koa rocking chair and crossed the living room to the thick drape of faded but still beautiful cornflower blue velvet that was their bedroom door. Crook understood this was private business, sniffed as if to engage with the extrasensory vibe and stretched himself prone across the rocking chair's indentations.

Uncle Moon began to hum, softly at first, but the melody beckoned. Other voices added words.  Even from the bedroom, the mele was deep and in this dream the message was strident and powerful.

Listening to the voices, Beatrix pulled the light blue and white tin from its place. The dresser mirror reflected a face familiar, but so much older than she remembered. "When did I get so worn?" She asked the woman in the mirror. with a voice of softened compassion, no longer so blunt or strident in her questioning she lifted the lid on the tin which was her Uncle's. Envelopes with her name on them in Moon Amona's flowing script were tied with green cotton string secured in a neat bow. Over the melody she could feel a tug at her ankle. It was the blonde.

Reaching down for Crook, Beatrix laughed, settled with both the tin and the dog onto the edge of the quilt-covered bed. The bow loosened easily. One tear fell.

Listen to the mele Beatrix was hearing by clicking the title of the song "Kaulana na pua "
To read an essay about the song, link here.

Read what Beatrix found inside the tin, the next part of the story.


1 Yellow Women and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today, "Interior and Exterior Landscapes", Leslie Marmon Silko, First published in Antaeus, no. 57 (Autumn 1986)

No comments:

Post a Comment