I had six children. First one, him boy.
Next one, she girl.
Then, girl.
Then, girl. Again.
Then, next one, him boy.
People ask me how I know
if babies are boy or girl
when they born with only
little brain and little heart,
Me is their mother, so I know.
Each one talk to me from my stomach
before they born. We talk. They even
tell me their favorite fish.
Then my husband go fishing,
bring them back what they ask for.
I eat.
They happy.
I feel it.
We show them we make good parents,
we ready for them, and
ask them to be healthy and
take what they need from me
to make their bodies strong. I
rest, too. I stay in bed all day
just like doctor say. I no
sweep the bamboo floors,
no wash dishes, no cook fish.
My mother and sisters
come my house take care of me.
We do that for all the girls in my family.
We all no more children.
My mother goes to the fortune teller
pays her, help us remove curse
from our family and help us
return to our home on Pikinni.
Fortune teller says
our ancestors cannot find us
on Ron̄dik, Kuwajleen, then Kōle.
She puts charms to attract spirits
to come help us.
The last one, him boy too.
When he born like his brothers
and sisters, I cry.
I want to die,
go to the beach
to drown myself.
Six sharks swim
into the shallows.
I walk into the warm sea,
they swim to me and tap my legs.
I grab hold of two top fins and my children
pull me out,
past the shallows,
past the reef,
into the black part of the ocean.
I let go of their fins. I am not scared:
they love me and I love them. Out there,
surrounded by nothing,
I sink into the saltwater,
ready to give up.
I want babies on my lap,
a normal life.
The sharks swim
around, around.
It gets quiet, still.
No waves. No birds.
Nothing.
Then one fin, pokes out of the water.
Then, two. Ten. Twenty.
I look under me into the water,
hundreds of sharks
swimming under me
like black darts.
I think about my grandparents,
my great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents,
husband, parents, my beautiful sisters.
I cannot let anything kill me or
destroy this shiver of sharks.
The ancestors show me
that I, too, am a shark.
All together, we swim in same direction.
I start to kick and paddle
for the shore. My children
swim to me but I push them away.
Only I can save myself.
My breathing comes hard.
At the shore, the waves
fall over my sore body.
I am fighter.
I am Keitlyn from Pikinni.
And I became strongest in the
saddest time of my life.

 

Kimo Armitage

Kimo Armitage

Kimo Armitage draws upon the rich stories of his youth spent in Haleiwa, Hawaii, where he was raised by his maternal grandparents. He is the winner of the 2016 Maureen Egan Writers Exchange in Poetry administered by Poets & Writers. Armitage published his first novel, The Healers, with the University of Hawaii Press, in April, 2016.

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