Ghazal for freshwater – wai

Not so long ago, my baby floated in amniotic wai.

Oceans within oceans, and beneath them—wai.


Kunawai spring makes a way through concrete,

beneath streets, alongside apartments, burbling wai.


Double the word for water in Hawaiian and the sum

means: goods, value, worth, wealth, importance—waiwai.


At Red Hill, the US Navy stores 200 million gallons of fuel

above the aquifer. A war machine knows no sacred wai.


A gasoline smell in the water. Then illness—vomiting, aches,

burning skin, diarrhea—5,000 sick from petroleum-laced wai.


Perched over the same aquifer, I fill my baby’s sippy cup

with questions, Is this, too, poisoned wai?


Divorce water from its wealth and the words are:

expendable, collateral, justifiable sacrifice of wai.


Are we doing any better with these wells and pipes?

Our endless appetite for lawns and showers. Municipal wai.


O, do not make me lie to my baby. Let what is good, be good—

this gift of water, this person you love most, wai.


Author: Laurel Nakanishi

Laurel Nakanishi is a writer, educator, and author of the book of poetry, Ashore. She was born and raised in Kapālama on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi. She holds degrees from the University of Montana and Florida International University, and has been fortunate to receive fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation and Japan-US Friendship Commission. She teaches creative writing to young people in Hawaiʻi public schools.

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