From “understory”

For my wife, Nālani, and our daughter, Kaikainali‘i, on her first birthday

nālani clips
kaikainali‘i’s tiny

fingernails while
she sleeps —

“the rape
of oceania

began with
guam” — soldiers

invade okinawa,
hawai‘i, the

philippines, and
south korea —

how do

[we] stop
kaikainali‘i’s body

from becoming
target practice — 

bullets fragment
and ricochet — 

nālani brushes
kaikainali‘i’s hair

when she
wakes, sings

the names
of body

parts in
hawaiian language — 

who will
remember the

names of
girls disappeared

from reservations
and maquiladoras

from villages
and schools

#mmiw #mmaw

nālani gathers
the clippings

because even
[our] nails

are ten
percent water — 

outside, mānoa
rain falls

as large
as eggs — 

inside, nālani
lies on

her side
to breast-

feed kaikainali‘i
in bed — 

they fall
asleep facing

each other,
still latched — 

i nestle
with them

and, for
a moment,

kaikainali‘i smiles — 
what does

she dream
about? her

deep breath
rises and

falls like
king tides — 

her fragile
rib cage

appears and
disappears like

a coral
island crowning — 

my daughter,
i know

our stories
are heavier

than stones,
but you

must carry
them with

you no
matter how

far from
home the

storms take
your canoe

because you
will always

find shelter
in our

stories, you
will always

belong in
our stories,

you will
always be

sacred in
our ocean

of stories — 
hanom hanom

More Poems by Craig Santos Perez