For all the aunties, but especially for Mary Maxine Lani Kahaulelio

October 28, 2019
A group of people, clad in brightly colored clothes, march toward the camera waving the Hawai'ian flag
Photo by Bryan Kuwada

Aunty says
She climbed a ninety-foot cliff in the dark
Traced the scars of a long-forgotten waterfall
Cried as she felt the green disappearing under her fingertips
And I learn
That aloha is courage steeped in mourning

Aunty says
This arrest bond is the most important paper I own
She holds it out like a certificate of her lineage
And I learn
To be born kanaka means to take pride in the fight
Means to understand the polity of our bodies

Aunty says malama kou kino
Says don’t take no fucking shit from nobody
Not even our own men
And I learn that there are so many violences that will come for me
Too many to count
Too many to turn to metaphor
Too violating to write into this poem

Aunty says she sees hope in me
And I watch her overflow
Says she dreamed of this day
And I learn
That genealogy is a promise to take your place amongst your greatest heroes in this mo’olelo

Aunty says I love you
And I stand in her shadow, expanding
And every fear in me evaporates
Every doubt casts itself aside
Every whisper that does me no service is carried away
And I become
Everything she dreamed I could be

I become an aunty too
A mauna —
My mo’opuna will stand in the malu of


Photo by Elizabeth Soto

Jamaica Heolimeleikalani Osorio is a Kanaka Maoli wahine poet/activist/scholar born and raised in Pālolo Valley to parents Jonathan and Mary Osorio. Heoli earned her PhD in English (Hawaiian literature) with the completion of her dissertation entitled “(Re)membering ʻUpena of Intimacies: A Kanaka Maoli Moʻolelo beyond Queer Theory.” Currently, Heoli is an assistant professor of Indigenous and Native Hawaiian politics at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. Heoli is a three-time national poetry champion, poetry mentor, and a published author. She is a proud past Kaiāpuni student, Ford Fellow, and a graduate of Kamehameha, Stanford (BA), and New York University (MA).

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