The dark silhouette of a long canoe
across the shimmering gold sea
stops me from entering the water,
struck by its artful trick of light
or something more—the mystery
of a timeless Polynesian journey.
Alone on the white sands,
I’m the only one to witness
the six silhouetted paddlers
moving in perfect rhythm
and silence, shadowed
despite the burnished sea.
Is it a blessing of the island gods
or a warning to those chosen
by them to witness the canoe
no one else will credit?
The relentless tide comes high
to claim me. I step back quickly,
remembering rumors of missing tourists
last seen swimming or surfing
before their sudden departure.
When I look up again,
the ghostly paddlers are gone.
“Oh well,” laughs the native guide
to whom I tell the tale,
“you probably had one too many
mai tais at the luau, didn’t you?”
“One coconut milk,” I said, shaking my head.
“Well, then it has no explanation,
unless you forgot your sunglasses.”
Author’s Note –
My introduction to Hawaii came as a child listening to “Hawaii Calling,” a radio program that offered a mix of lively hulas and plaintive love songs with the sound of waves breaking on shore and friendly chatter about the pleasures of the Islands. I Indulged the fantasy of being there, but since the Islands were 2,400 miles away and my family’s idea of travel was Sacramento, I never imagined actually setting foot on the sands of an Hawaiian beach, getting a song from Hilo Hattie, or joining the crowd on Kalakaua Avenue.
Many years later I realized my childhood dream with my wife and three daughters. Thanks to a friend who offered us her modest condo on the south shore of Kauai, we became enthusiastic malahinis (newcomers) breakfasting each morning on coconuts, exploring the island and finding the real Hawaii off the tourist trail. I hope this summer or a later one will allow us to return to the islands. I’d like nothing better than to hit the beach, get my toes wet, catch a wave that won’t knock me flat, and watch the Hawaiian palms catch a tropical breeze. Please pass the sunblock and see if you can find a ukulele so I can remember how Elvis shook it up in “Rock-A-Hula Baby.” That was more than sixty years ago, but Hawaii is forever.
A retired reporter and editor, Stockton resident Howard Lachtman has written Delta-centered detective stories, Stockton Civic Theatre reviews and a variety of baseball tales for Soundings. In 2006. he was honored by the Stockton Arts Commission for “24 years of superior review and commentary on the performing and literary arts in Stockton.”
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