An unnamed Kailua, Oʻahu poet of the late 19th century looked out over the once-flourishing fish pond and kalo-rich embankments of Kawainui and saw only the limu pae hewa of neglect and the ʻōpala ʻai of the immigrant. He mourned the absence of the pond’s guardian, the moʻo Hauwahine, who had guaranteed the prosperity of Kailua as long as its people maintained the harmony of their relationships with each other, their ʻāina, and their akua. “If you were to return now,” he wrote, “who would even recognize you; who would wail; who would cry out in welcome?” (“ʻO ‘Oe nō Paha Ia e ka Lau o ke Aloha,” in Emerson’s Unwritten Literature of Hawaiʻi, 82–3.) “Lau Kapalili” was composed a century later, but under much the same circumstances. It mourns the loss of Maunawili Valley to foreign developers and their exclusive golf course.
Ake aʻe ka manaʻo iā Maunawili
I ka holu lau kalo, lau kapalili.
I Makaliʻi au e ʻalawa maka
Kahi a ka mea huna a ka wahine.
Kiʻekiʻe i luna ke kū o Ahiki
A he nani he maikaʻi ke ʻike aku.
A hiki mākou i Makawao
He pōnaha wai lipo laʻi ka palai.
Ua hui pū nā wai aʻo ke āwawa
Me he lei hoʻohie no Hauwahine.
Na wai nō ʻo ia e ualo aku
I ka hoʻi hou mai a Keaʻiaʻi?
Eia aʻe nō ʻoe, e ka puʻu dālā
Ua nalo ka maikaʻi aʻo Mokulana.
Haʻina ʻia mai ana ka puana
No ka holu lau kalo, lau kapalili.
I yearn for Maunawili
The swaying kalo leaves, trembling leaves.
At Makaliʻi I see with a glance
The site of the woman’s secret.
Mt. Ahiki is high above
So wonderful to see.
When we reach Makawao
There is a pool deep and still with palai.
The waters of the valley once joined together
Like a beautiful lei for Hauwahine.
Who will cry out to her
When The Bright-Skinned One returns?
Here you come, hill of dollars
The beauty of Mokulana is lost.
Tell the summary of the song
For the swaying kalo leaves, trembling leaves.
© Kipi Bown, 2002