Hawaiian Journal
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Coconut Zen Master


Here I am at the Maui Mall in Kahului. Stuff pretty much isn’t open yet, but that’s okay. It was about 1 1/2 miles here from the airport. What I really want to know is, short of dynamite, what’s the best way to get inside a coconut? There sure are lots of coconuts here, but they baffle me.

The West Maui Mountains as seen from here look so much like, say, San Bruno Mountain south of San Francisco. I’m sure that up close they’re very different. I lost my Maui map on my way here and need a new one, especially in this city. Maybe I can get whatever I want here at the mall. Why not?

I think I could even get away with sleeping on the outskirts of Kahului if I was discreet. I think I can be discreet enough to hang out anywhere. This island seems enough like California in population density and wilderness distribution for me to manage that.

Where else have I ever been that I can wear shorts at dawn in January?

The way the trunks of palm trees grow suggests a tunnel left by a worm burrowing into the sky. Gently curved, they’re beautiful, much happier looking than the palms I’ve seen in Marin County or Eureka. I look forward to eating their fruit. As soon as I learn how, that is.

Seems like there were a couple of things in Kahului I wanted to see. I’ll see how I feel when I have a map again.

Pa’ia seems to be the hippie town of the mid-island. I got off at Twin Falls and ran into a No Trespassing sign on the first hiking trail in the book. I decided not to do this hike. No one else is here anyway.

There was a natural food store in Pa’ia. Prices seemed not much higher than Garberville.

Now I’m at the Keanae (Kane-eye) YMCA. The man who picked me up hitchhiking is interested in staying here. Keanae itself has Keep Out signs, as the book says it does.

The man’s name is Bob. I introduced him to the pleasure of eating coconuts (and the labor of husking them). His ruminations about women and money and his limited patience somehow cast me into the role of Zen master.

“What do you do with your time?” he asks, puzzled.

“You’ve watched me a couple of hours,” I reply. “I peel coconuts, write things, draw pictures.”

“But you’re on vacation.”

“I do the same things at home.”

Actually, I just now realize that I’m not on vacation. I’m here to work.


Opening the Coconut

On Maui with a ballpoint pen
I understand pandanus trees,
forms of root, leaf and shadow,
ocean ripple and lava cliff.

Bob, who lives near San Francisco,
says he likes my drawing while
aimlessly stabbing his coconut.
“This is hard work,” he complains.

“Try giving more attention
to what you’re trying to do,” I say.
“The husk is heavy fibers and
you want to pry them off the nut.”

The sun pulls sweat from his patience
and he says, “I’ll pay you to peel it.”
Still playing the role of his teacher,
I say, “All right, but you have to watch.”

Bob talks of women and money while
I slice and pry with the screwdriver,
looks surprised, says, “I was robbed!”
when the husk is off in a moment.


The place where we are now has one lovely pool carved in the lava under the bridge, and another much larger one on the downstream side. The water is decidedly cool. I would have loved it a couple hours ago when the air was hot and sticky.


Wednesday, January 7, 1981, Hana

Things are happening so fast. I spent the night at Matthew’s house. He’s a Hawaiian who caretakes the church here in Hana. He told me pakalolo is Hawaiian for pot. He has many stories to tell. He was in Korea, didn’t like the army. He’s been to Texas and San Jose, California.

Matthew thought it was very funny that I’d be eating a coconut. I guess Bob was right about the natives not eating them now. Matthew had chili for dinner.

What a difference between these two men, Bob and Matthew! And me, different from both of them. I don’t make money, except when I need some. I’ve been here a day and spent about five dollars. Interesting that Bob would conclude I was the first real poet he’d met from just seeing my way of life, without reading or hearing a single one of my poems.

I’m at the beach at last, here in Hana. I probably could have slept here. Oh, hello. There’s the sun.

So I’m facing east here, just about, when I face the sun. And California’s, well, that way. O sea starved, hungry sea. I want love.


Now that it’s getting warm, people are walking around here.

Let me start by loving this land, this tropical island forest with its chattering birds and bigleafed trees.

I found these fruits like yellow pomegranates that are very tart. There’s tiny red ants and more or less regular mosquitoes here in Hana. So now what do I do? Go forward, or back, or stay here?

I’m not a Zen master or a plumber, really. I wonder what I’ll seem to be today.

I’m eating lunch in a mosquito infested defacto garbage dump which is otherwise a quite lovely forest. There are coconut palms of all sizes here, including some just sprouting from the coconuts.

The leaves of the young ones are very different. In an intermediate stage they have huge broad leaves that split into the mature feather-like form.


Seven Pools


And here I am at last at the seven pools, thanks to a ride from a beautiful woman with long straight blonde hair who reminds me of Annie’s sister Robin. She was wearing a homemade bikini crocheted to the exact size of her nipples and pubic area. I asked if she was going to her favorite beach. No, she just dresses like this when it’s hot and sunny.

I’ve never gotten a ride from a woman in a bikini before, let alone such a scanty one. You’d think she’d worry about getting raped or something, but I guess on Maui there’s a greater climate of trust than in California.

It’s technically illegal to hitchhike here. You’re not supposed to raise your arm and point your thumb. But you can stand beside the road and smile at the cars, and everyone knows this means you want a ride.

I’m sitting on the cliffs above the ocean, below the pools. I’m facing southeast here. There’s Hawaii Island itself, just very slightly deeper blue than the sky.

The ocean is so palpably blue here, without the greenishness of California. In a way I’m glad I visited those California beaches shortly before coming here. This lava is black, bluish because its shadows reflect the blue sky. The crabs scuttling around the lower rocks are likewise very black. There’s a yellow jacket checking out the pores in the lava chunk, looking for a nest site. The foam looks almost like whipped cream.


Whew! I’m quite tired already, and have half a corn or blister or something on my middle right toe. This will never do.

A couple of people my parents’ age asked me to take a picture of them, the wife’s head on her husband’s lap. I stepped around until I found a composition where they were both at interesting diagonals on the grass and clicked.

The pools eroded in these lava flows get eroded look much like pools in the chunky limestone or sandstone of California’s Coast Range. I’m at one of the pools now, thinking about hiking to Waimoko Falls. A frog just jumped. Flckck splash. I don’t know the names of any of these plants, and there’s so many kinds of them too. There’s a dragonfly. I don’t see many animals here, not like California, where there’s so many.

That’s the second couple gone out to that rock to sit and talk. I guess it’s a good conversational rock, like that log at Proxy Falls was a good picture log. Actually this rock would make a good picture place, but no one’s doing it. Oh, it’s in the shade, that’s why.

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