A Poem on Rebecca Horne’s Art Piece “Pono; Final”

While visiting Hawai’i in 2018, I discovered Rebecca Horne’s striking art piece “Pono; Final.” This piece inspired an ekphrastic poem entitled “Ho’oponopono.”

On the background of this portrait, Horne has inscribed in tiny handwriting a five-part “mantra.” This meditation is part of the ho’oponopono forgiveness practice, a custom to bring about reconciliation in Old Hawaii. In ho’oponopono (to put to right, to amend), participants repeat the mantra “I am sorry, forgive me, thank you, I love you” to bring about healing in themselves and others. The phrases in the mantra, repeated several times, “clean” or correct errors and allow reconciliation. The final phrase, “I release this to Divinity,” describes letting go of the offences and beginning anew.

When writing about my experiences in Hawai’i, I threaded the mantra through my poem, which is posted below. To read more about Horne’s creative process — and mine — watch for my article “‘A Saying Forth’:Rebecca Horne’s art ‘Pono; Final’ and Susan Braley’s poem ‘Ho’oponopono'” in the next issue of The Canadian Art Review of Education.

Ho’oponopono (Holiday in Hawaii, January, 2018)

THIS IS NOT A DRILL
BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII
SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER

I am sorry

The tourists in the van cried into their cell phones, our guide tells us the next day.
They wanted to climb the embankments at the freeway’s edge.
It is not possible to dig a hole in lava rock.

Forgive me

He said to them, I need you to sit down, put your seatbelt back on. If I can’t get you to the airport, I will take you to my house.
He says, I told them I watch for the owl, my family god. It has found our ancestors lost at sea and guided them home.
We leave no one behind.

Thank you

Mothers lift their children from the sewers where they hid them from the coming firestorm.

I love you

the tourists say to him at the airport. Were you really going to take us to your house? Here, take this, and go out to dinner with your wife.

In a suburb, a family lies dead in their living room – they kept their vow to die together. Not vaporized, without shadow or ash.

*

We are dying out as a people.
I have only a daughter, no son.

I am sorry

We have no land for hunting.
My father is in love with muscle cars. My uncles, who live in the Maui mountains, taught me how to hunt with crossbow and knife.

See the dip between those hills. The Japanese warplanes found a gap in our radar. The bombs fell here before they fell on Pearl Harbor.

Forgive me

In 1893, the Americans imprisoned our queen in her own house. She refused to resign.
The people sent her jasmine wrapped in newspaper so she could read about their suffering after the coup. She stepped down to relieve them.

Thank you

I work three jobs. Work is for putting food on the table for my family. Surfing is for the soul.

I love you

MISSILE THREAT IN ERROR. THERE IS NO THREAT.

*

Back at the hotel, on our phones, news from Canada. A Vancouver teenager riding in his parents’ car dies in a gang shoot-out. He was a gifted boy, his brother said.

I am sorry

One of the gunmen, 23, is shot in the head. He was kind, his mother said, he was so much more than his criminal record.

Forgive me

son, the victim’s father said, we could not protect you.

Thank you

for being the pillar in our lives.

I love you

The ashes of two small girls, strangled by their father on Christmas Eve, lie together in an urn covered in yellow butterflies.

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