Jus' lettin' you know

Jus' lettin' you know

The best place to launch a paddle board
on the north shore of Maui
is a gulch whose signs announce
it is governed by the LHG:
Lawful Hawaiian Government
i.e. not the United States
not the smartest place for those of us
with white skin
to be hanging around

Not because it’s truly dangerous
or they hate my skin color
just that it’s always been their place
and I don’t like putting
more white pressure
on their last places

Yet it,
Māliko, meaning “budding”
(and it always is from so much rain)
is the best spot to launch
for water sports
So I go there
as do hundreds of other white people
who don’t think twice
but I’m not one of them … anymore

I pull up the other day
and I feel the glare upon me
I’m not sure if I’ve parked too close
or he wants me to leave
or if he would really use
the 8-inch knife slung to his jeans
or all of the above
or none of the above

His hostile glare stays on me
and I lock eyes with him
but I must look away
for he holds it far too long
for human etiquette

I want to talk to his tattooed mind
… but my Midwestern friendliness
has gotten me in trouble before
So I tuck my paddle board
under my arm and I hope my truck
is there when I return

I say hi (why not?)
and he says hi
and stops me with other words:
Dis my brothah right hea
(I move closer)
My little brothah, right hea
he points to a wooden box
on top of his car

Oh shit, I’m sorry

I live hea since
I was a keed… 5 years old
jus’ got out of prison
9 years in prison

I want to ask him if freedom feels good
but that’s a dumb question
so I ask another
hopefully showing humility
but truthfully showing how I feel
Do you want me to leave?
(I would’ve)

I jus’ got back hea
(he throws a suitcase into the bushes)
gunna spread my brothah’s ashes
I jus’ lettin’ you know
where I’m at right now, braddah
and he throws a shaka

I’m good
for now
… and maybe next time
so I paddle out

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