30 NOVEMBER 2011


Low tide
moving day

About Caroline Sinavaiana



Low tide

of our oceans
the watery skin
of earth

pulled back to expose
a webbing of coral
rough & prickly

to hide treasures
of octopus &
spiny sea urchin

her long black spikes
of danger & allure
guarding that golden

softness of sweet
flesh at the center
of ourselves & each

other & other & other
millions of tiny spines
fused into this great

wall of lacy color & refuge
towering from the reef bed
laid for us on the ocean floor

layered over eons
of lifetimes imprinted
on this architecture of mind

streaming across time
that finds us again
consorting on this

ocean path
now run aground
on the fecund reef

waiting for high tide
to lift us again to the safety
of deep water.

for S ~




dry creek bed
small pools still

with the memory of rain
keeping their own counsel
waiting for water to rise.

sunday afternoon
a cool room & time
ear to the wind.

birdsong in three notes
sounding down the valley
the balm of animal singing.




there’s a woman standing at the edge of things

of a canyon where osprey
fly to their high nest
talons clutching
a fish/ or eel writhing
that one airborne moment
of their watery lives
shrouded in sound
high-pitched & keening,
but whose voice?

There’s a woman standing at the edge of things

of a languid spit
where river meets
ocean & harbor seals
bask in fat glory
keeping a safe distance
from the elephant seal
his opulent hips splayed
on grey sand
in lonely splendor.

There’s a woman standing at the edge of things

of a country riddled
with nightmares & bad karma
mass graves & small coffins/
nodding citizens sedated
with one bromide or
another/ one fossil fuel
or another
one memory lapse
or another. 

There’s a woman standing at the edge of things

of a young century choked
with shrapnel & prosthetics/
small machines to replace
human memory/ the hands
of women/ wrung
over lovers or daughters
brothers or sons/ their
eyes clouded like desert
skies by hot winds.

There’s a woman standing at the edge of things

of a day in late summer
like a soft skirt of blue
with tiny white stars
her stick stirring red
coals/ she’s singing & baking
cornbread & calling
her dead/  & then sending
them back/ down the canyon
& out across waves.


moving day

for michelle

I imagine an old house
sturdy, low to the ground.
blue tiles in the kitchen

& out back, trees
you can climb.
shade from the napa sun

& dirt you can play in.
a green hose & water
for the girl to squirt at
her brother.

merlin, your australian shepherd
sage, waning with age
one blue eye and one brown

making provisional truce
with lucky the beloved
poodle & heir apparent.

the house arches her
eyebrows humming
with inquiry.

who is the tall woman
and who, the slender girl
with dark acorn eyes?

the small stout boy
his warrior presence
a shield before them all.

their sweat fine
from hauling boxes
worry dolls dug out

at bedtime & put to work.
the barrio two blocks
up the street.

space now/ enough to locate
the traveler
to call

at last
to home
your breath, a wing

opening into expanse
then folding
into surrender

then opening again.



is Associate Professor of English at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa, where she teaches Oceanic/Pacific and Comparative Ethnic Literatures, and Creative Writing. Teaching for many years at Amerika Samoa College, Sinavaiana started the first environmental NGO in Samoa. Author of two collections of poetry, Alchemies of Distance and Mohawk/Samoa: Transmigrations (with James Thomas Stevens), her poetry and scholarship appear in national and international journals. Sinavaiana has given readings and lectures in Honolulu, Apia, Pago Pago, Nuku'alofa, Auckland, New York City, Los Angeles, Berkeley, Bridgetown, Beijing, Bellagio and New Delhi. A former fellow at the Rockefeller Conference Center in Bellagio, Italy, Sinavaiana serves on the Advisory Board of Meridians; a Journal of Feminism, Race and Transnationalism, and also as Regional Liaison for the Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellows Program.