He Mele Hula Pū‘ili
J. R. Kaha‘i Topolinski
A naughty old hula song tells us, "‘A‘ole kēnā ‘o ke kolopā / A e holuholu ai a nei kīkala / ‘A‘ole kēnā ‘o ke kipikua / A e ‘ume‘ume ai a nei pōhaku." That by you is not the crowbar that will lift these hips, and that by you is not the pickaxe that will undo this stone. Emma Bush, the haku mele of "Kolopā," goes on to explain that "ka ihu o ka lio" is what she truly loves—the nose of the horse is that which leaves her panting in breathless, paupauaho fashion. Kaha‘i Topolonski’s "He Mele Pū‘ili" is every bit as risqué as Aunty Emma’s composition; the difference lies in his single-minded focus on the irresistible and tireless nature of his bamboo dance instrument. Wahi āna e kaena ai.
Pehea ho‘i e ka hana a ku‘u pūʻili hili lā?
E noho pū, hili pū, ana i ka pili a kāua
Ua mau ke kani honi a ka pū‘ili nani ē
E lele pili kāua i ka ‘ulalena a Ka‘ala lā ē
Ua ‘ala kea e ka pū‘ili puhemohemo lā ē
Pa‘i hone ana iā Kaōhilani a ka ‘ulaweo
Ua hamo la‘i e ka leo hana aloha o ku‘u pū‘ili heno
Mai Hawai‘i a Ni‘ihau i ka mole lā o Lehua ē
He ‘ala ho‘oheno ke ‘ano nui o ia pua pūʻili lā
He hoapili i ona mau ‘ia e ka ‘ohe hano ihu lā
Maika‘i nō ka ‘aiha‘a hula hilihili lā
Ho‘āla lā i ka mana‘o o ku‘u pua ko‘i‘i a‘e
Puana ke aloha no ku‘u lei haku i pū‘ili pū lā
"I mau ai ke ko‘i‘i koi a loko," lā ‘ae, ‘ae, ē.
How goes the work of my bamboo dance instrument?
Marking the dance tempo of our every move
Constant is the teasing rhythm of so fine an instrument
That carries us through the reddish haze at Ka‘ala
The pū‘ili releases its hypnotic spell of romance
Romancing, with every beat, Kāohilani of the deep redness
Soft and magical is the voice of my alluring bamboo instrument
Known from Hawai‘i to Ni‘ihau, extending to the far reaches of Lehua Island
A commanding, beckoning fragrance is the essence of this pū‘ili flower
A companion to whom the nose flute is ever attracted
Splendid is the unassuming display of the dance
Recalling the blissful memory of my fresh young blossom
Complete is my song of praise for the bamboo dance instrument
How wonderful it is "to hold forever the insistent desire within," yes indeed.
© J. R. Kaha‘i Topolinski, 2003