Thursday, April 19, 2007

"Lāhaina Noon"

Eric Paul Shaffer lives in Kula, on Maui, on the sunset slope of Haleakala. He is author of several books and a chapbook of poetry, two chapbooks of fiction, and non-fiction articles and reviews.

He applied the "page 69 test" to his fifth book, Lāhaina Noon, and reported the following:
“Ka Mahina O Hoku Ma Haleakalā” appears on page 69 of Lāhaina Noon, a book about sun, night and stars, sea and shore, mountains, and moments of illumination.

Living on an island two thousand miles from everywhere else underscores how small and how large the world is, and no place was more isolated than Hawai‘i when the planes stopped flying on September 11, 2001.

The sudden silence awakened me to the true magnitude of the planet, and at that moment in history, my friend Andrew and I hiked at night into Haleakalä crater.

Descending into the volcano broadened my sense of time and place, and every step carried me further into a world darker and forever changed on a planet beautiful but always indifferent to us.

Ka Mahina O Hoku Ma Haleakalā

It's a landscape barely terrestrial--sere, barren, stark.
A full moon blazes white through darkness rising
from my feet. This landscape lives by its own light,

a light of dust that silvers where it settles. In silence,
we descend. It's a landscape that barely allows
our passage. We're not alone. ‘Ua‘u call from the cliff,

voices of shadow the moonlight rips from raw rock.
It's a landscape that lives in light of stars piercing
shadows after centuries of marking the darkness.

Beyond the moon, far suns glitter like ice in oil.
Descending to the crater, my companion disappears,
though I hear his tread echo above or below me.

The crater floor glows, now reflecting light reflected
from the sun, a light reflected in my skin darkened
by sun and moon, silver in the night, this skin spun

from a dust of stars. I say nothing. This landscape
swallows words. On the trail, thoughts loom large
as the moon. It's a landscape that gladdens me:

When I'm gone, the moon will light the volcano,
the ice will come, the world will not change at all,
but for those little changes we mistake for time.

NOTES: On the Hawaiian calendar, every phase of the moon has a name, and Hoku is the night of the full moon. Haleakalā, “House of the Sun,” is the active volcano (10,023 feet) constituting East Maui, where I live. Thus, the title of the poem translates as “Night of the Full Moon in the House of the Sun.” ‘Ua‘u is the endangered Dark-Rumped Petrel, whose Hawaiian name mimics perfectly their forlorn cries.
Visit the publisher's website to learn more about Lāhaina Noon.

Check out the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue