San Francisco based writer and poet Emily Chan shares with us her experience traveling the islands. A collector of languages and dialects, Chan fell in love with pidgin and has since been extensively researching.
Words: Emily Chan | Photography: Annie Nguyen
“PARADISE” is a pouch of trail mix on your seat-back table,
Allotted in vacuum and stated so sterilely:
A blend of chalky curls of wasabi, nori-ed crackles
and petrified post war mythology.
ALOHA is in the intercoms en route to paradise, invoked like spirit
And uttered, like a tick, to vacancy and dangling
From the rear view mirror of your rental car.
SCENIC is a hot tub-full of old White dads,
wooly torsos and barrel arms a-molting
heaps of tropically reddened skin.
Versing you in mainland matters of private equity
and the flimsiness of Suze Orman’s financial doctrine,
and trying to set you up with their flaxen-headed sons
“just over by the grills” available to guests only.
You, feeling suddenly appraised and like a lil Asian somethin, somethin.
BACULUM is the scientific word for “whale penis bone”
Which you digest along with other lingual delicacies
while you breakfast on a complimentary buffet of
Pancakes somewhat half-assed and sopping
Wet with flung ocean and all-you-can-pour Aunt Jemima’s,
Shoveled down with plastic cutlery and SPF-steeped pineapple,
Teetering, spilt onto your naked torso toasting
in hot choppy pursuit
of those pods of baculum
and their according, evasive
DISTANCE is what you feel
tracing ancient floes
of lingual particles
deep in the manapua and de broke mouts.
Diaspora unfurling from Pidgin tongues.
And wondering whether it’s arrival or departure
FOODLAND is where women in hairnets chat in Tagalog
behind heaps of fish and ziti.
where nearly fuschia linguicia sits by the Lil Smokies
where mounds of plastic-wrapped musubi
grow molten and archaeological under heat lamps,
where the ethnic aisle seems oddly redundant.
ORIENTALIZATION is what you wonder worriedly might be the origin of the term Happa.
ORIENTALIZATION is the origin of these delicious-ass cream cheese wontons.
PANORAMIC is the setting on everybody’s phone atop this mountain.
PANORAMIC is the poke selection at Foodland.
DISTANCE is what you feel, hilariously,
When the local kids at the beach tell you to fuck off
When you tell them encouragingly
to bump that M.a.a.d City
a little louder.
PIERCING is the grandmother dressed in Hospitality Hibiscus filigree,
mopping resort sweat up at an obscure hour,
While children at home idle at dining tables
over undone homework.
PARADISE is distance.
PARADISE is commodity.
PARADISE is amongst the lucky cats
perched on the fryer at McDonald’s
—watching over baskets of trans-pacific nuggets—
under patina of fry grease.
In the corner liquor store packed with old pickled things,
engulfed in a great cloud of Li Hing.
Where snap-backed youth slop pounds
of octopus and kimchi into Styrofoam palettes
for all the aunties.
On Haupia sheet cakes at Costco
celebrating the births of 10-year-old congregants
— AND JEHOVAH SAID LET THERE BE LELANI—
waiting to be taken to someone’s backyard and eaten
after the Wii boxing and all the Corningwares of inherited recipes.
When decasyllabic street names resist European cartography.
With chill Oba-chans loitering, in front of the public library.
Next to a woman on an old bench, watching light wend
through the steppes of the parking lot taro paddy she grew
“just for my family” she explains,
while she shows you a camera roll full of her baby girl’s drill team meets.
On a cracked and narrow street,
A crumbled travel agency
promises trips to mainlands and motherlands.
Palm trees and crystal-watered beaches,
All the while saving their dusty Windows screens.
PARADISE is somewhere.
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