I am always falling
toward that dark, swollen
river filled with tongues
drunk and baptized

new priests waving foreign
flags and parchment
calling in the conquered
to hungry bankers

Sacred places gone for coin
and rotting ships
diseased through
by poisoned seas

in greenish light
hooks and stripes
the lash across my face
and pale white stars

nailed to coffins
filled with dying
flesh cast off
from a dying land

only my scream in the homeless wind

and murdered voices

Notes for “Pax Americana: Hawai’i, 1848”

Seventy years after Capt. James Cook arrived in Hawai’i, American missionaries successfully pressured the ruling Hawaiian ali’i-chiefs- to divide the lands and establish private property land tenure. Our people had suffered a biological holocaust in the first decades of contact that reduced their numbers to a mere twenty percent of what they had been in 1778, estimated at over a million.

Stunned by the great dying of our people and believing that the missionaries’ promise of everlasting life meant everlasting physical life of our nation, the chiefs converted to Christianity. Following the advice of the missionaries, they declared the Mahele, or Division of the Lands, in 1848. Within twenty years of this tragic action, nearly all our remaining people were dispossessed of their lands. The missionaries’ children, meanwhile, had become plantation owners and sugar barons on the ancestral lands of the Hawaiian people.

Today the missionaries companies, known collectively as the Big Five, still control much of Hawaii’s lands and politics.