Pulupē Ka ‘Ili

Author: 
Kainani Kahaunaele

 

Photo: Kīhei de Silva
 
The mist descends on Kauaikananā Valley as seen from Waineki Ridge, Kōke‘e. Queen Emma’s retainers are thought to have danced here at Pu’uhulahula on her 1871 trek to Kilohana Lookout. The language of “Pulupē i ka ‘Ili” has much in common with chants composed for Emma’s pi’i mauna, especially with those passages descriptive of the mists that Emma encountered along the way.
 
Photo: Kīhei de Silva
 
Ilihia i ka nani o ka lehua
Lehua ma‘ema‘e wale i ka ‘ikena
Awed by the beauty of the lehua blossom
A flawless beauty to behold

Kōke‘e is the name of the stream on the western edge of Waimea Canyon by which Kōke‘e State Park and the surrounding area (including Pu‘ukāpele, Hālauaola, Waineki, Kapuka‘ōhelo, and Kauaikananā) are currently known. The name’s meaning, “to wind and bend,” serves to remind us of the need to unwind and unbend our minds from western notions of unpleasant weather in order to appreciate the imagery of Kainani Kahaunaele’s “Pulupē i ka ‘Ili.” The heavy, encircling mist of Kōke‘e is characterized by its ability to penetrate one’s clothing, to pinch at and soak the skin, and to generate a sensation that is at once tingling and numbing. From a western point of view, this cold, damp mist is uninviting – something to be gotten out of, toasted away in front of a fireplace, and medicated with coffee and Bristol Cream. In the very Hawaiian context of “Pulupē i ka ‘Ili,” however, the mist becomes a metaphor of excitement and yearning; it settles on the composer like a powerful memory of love; it arouses and reminds; it conjures images of pristine lehua blossoms and sated, nectar-sipping birds; it heightens the senses, underscores the poet’s real-time separation from the mole of Lehua Island, and calls for a skin-drenching re-union. In the very Hawaiian world of “Pulupē i ka ‘Ili,” the chill of Kōke‘e is extremely hot stuff.

A luna a‘e au ‘o Kōke‘e
I ka ‘inikiniki a ke anu
Pulupē ka ‘ili i ka ua noe o uka

Mā‘e‘ele nei ka ‘ili o ke ko‘eko‘e
Hāli‘ali‘a mai ku‘u manawa
I ka po‘ai ‘ia e ka ‘ohu ho‘opulu ‘ili

Ilihia i ka nani o ka lehua
Lehua ma‘ema‘e wale i ka ‘ikena
Ua kena i ka wai mūkīkī a ka manu

'Au aku ‘o Ni‘ihau a me
Lehua i ke kai o Kaulakahi
Ho‘okahi ho‘i au i uka nei o Kōke‘e

Hā‘ina ka puana i ke ko‘eko‘e
I ka ‘inikiniki a ke anu
Pulupē ka ‘ili i ka ua noe o uka

In the uplands of Kōke‘e
As the cold pinches and tingles
My skin is soaked from the upland mists

My skin is numb in the damp chill
My heart swells with fond memories
As I am surrounded by the skin drenching mist

Awed by the beauty of the lehua blossom
A flawless beauty to behold
Satiated by the nectar sipped by the birds

Ni‘ihau and Lehua jut out at sea
Across the sea of Kaulakahi
I am but one, alone in Kōke‘e

My story is told in the dampening chill
In the tingling pinches of the cold
My skin is soaked from the upland mists

© Kainani Kahaunaele, 2000