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Pulupē Ka ‘Ili

Kainani Kahaunaele

Kōkeʻe is the name of the stream on the western edge of Waimea Canyon by which Kōkeʻe State Park and the surrounding area (including Puʻukāpele, Hālauaola, Waineki, Kapukaʻōhelo, 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 ka ʻIli.” The heavy, encircling mist of Kōkeʻe 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 ka ʻIli,” 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 ka ʻIli,” the chill of Kōkeʻe is extremely hot stuff.

A luna aʻe au ʻo Kōkeʻe
I ka ʻinikiniki a ke anu
Pulupē ka ʻili i ka ua noe o uka

Māʻeʻele nei ka ʻili o ke koʻekoʻe
Hāliʻaliʻa mai kuʻu manawa
I ka poʻai ʻia e ka ʻohu hoʻopulu ʻili

Ilihia i ka nani o ka lehua
Lehua maʻemaʻe wale i ka ʻikena
Ua kena i ka wai mūkīkī a ka manu

ʻAu aku ʻo Niʻihau a me
Lehua i ke kai o Kaulakahi
Hoʻokahi hoʻi au i uka nei o Kōkeʻe

Hāʻina ka puana i ke koʻekoʻe
I ka ʻinikiniki a ke anu
Pulupē ka ʻili i ka ua noe o uka

In the uplands of Kōkeʻe
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

Niʻihau and Lehua jut out at sea
Across the sea of Kaulakahi
I am but one, alone in Kōkeʻe

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

View from kilohana - hawaii savvy, flickr  large

photo credit: Hawaii Savvy, Flickr

Sweeping views of Waimea and beyond from Kilohana Lookout in Kōkeʻe, Kauaʻi.

Ohia lehua 1 - starrs - olinda, maui

photo credit: Forest & Kim Starr

Ilihia i ka nani o ka lehua, Lehua maʻemaʻe wale i ka ʻikena. Awed by the beauty of the lehua blossom, A flawless beauty to behold.

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