Mele Ko‘u

Author: 
J.R. Kaha‘i Topolinski

 

Photo Courtesy of Kaha‘i Topolinski
Anne Kamamoakualii Buffandeau Topolonski and her husband John Renken Kaha‘i Topolinski, 1993.

John Charlot identifies one insufficiently studied aspect of Hawaiian literature as "the tendency . . . to stabilize or canonize a definite vocabulary within a literary form, even one recently introduced." He points, for example, to the repetitive use of "pua" by Kalākaua’s poets ("ka heke o nā pua," "ka pua mae ‘ole i ka lā," "ke pua mai lā i Kīlauea") as a rhetorical device whose purpose, in part, is to express a key point in Kalākaua’s views and policies: the need to ho‘oulu lāhui, to regenerate our flowers. Students of Kaha’i Topolonski’s poetry will recognize that he, too, has developed a specific vocabulary for expressing the passion and devotion by which he is tied to family, homeland, and lāhui. "Pololū" and "‘ala laua’e" are key words in the Topolinski lexicon, they speak of spear and fragrance, forest and fern, and pilikua and pilialo -- and they echo an older vocabulary of Kamehameha chants for Topolinski’s ancestral lands in Kohala. One cannot read Kaha‘i’s "Mele Ko‘u," for example, with being reminded of the spear- and love-making activities of "Hole Waimea i ka Ihe a ka Makani."

Ua ho‘olā‘au i ko‘u ko‘i‘i
Kahi wai a‘o Kuauli

Ua like nō a like
Ke kai malino a‘o Kona

No Kona kai ‘ehuehu
Wili pū ‘ia mai e Loloku

A loko a‘o Hālawa
Honi a lawa au i ke ‘ala

He ‘ala pi‘i o ka laua‘e, ka hīnano
He wahi makana mai ka loko o Kohala

Ho‘omoana ‘ia a piha loa ‘o Kohalanui
Kuahiwi kau i ka ua koko

Eia ho‘i ‘oe ‘o ‘Āwini ka u‘i
‘Iwa‘iwa lau wehi i ka po‘o

Ua po‘o lua ‘ala i ka poli
Liko kuali i ka pali o Pololū

Hulu hiwa māewaewa i O‘ahu a Lua
I māhana lua nā lapa kuikui

Kuhi heno ka maha‘ulu ē
Ua māhani i ka pou ‘ulu

Ho‘oulu ke kauila pano ohiohi
Luana i Kumulehua ka manu pou uli

Ua lawe ‘ia a pa‘a kēia mele
No ku‘u pua u‘i ka‘u i aloha.

Endless is my love
For the liquid refreshment of Hawai‘i Kuauli

It reminds me so much
Of Kona’s calm sea

To Kona belongs the sea spray
Causing a wreath to be fashioned in the mind

Indeed, it was at Hālawa
When I took in the fragrance

Held captive by the double scent of laua‘e and hīnano
From the depths of Kohala came this gift

Filling greater Kohala to excess
As the royal red mist crowned the mountain tops

Here is ‘Āwini the beautiful one
Adorned and wreathed in maiden-hair ferns

Gathered in the fragrance of the sweetheart
As Pololū is made more beautiful

Seen are the fluttering feathers of O‘ahu’s cape
As the kukui torch lights are doubled

The forest groves strongly beckon
Inviting is the clump of breadfruit

Where the tall kauila trees prosper
There at Kumulehua the bird rested

This praise is given to
My youthful blossom, mine to love.

 

© Kaha‘i Topolinski, September 13, 2004.
"Na Kaha‘i / No Anne, my true love in the days of my youth"