Garrett's daughter overlooking landscape at sunset

Two Poems by Garrett Hongo

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Annalena Staring into the Sun, Koaiʻa Tree Sanctuary, Hawaiʻi

We’d started amidst woodside clumps of cactus, bearded with soft, yellow spines,
wind whipping at our backs as we climbed through grass and scrub                   
                                                                                        and passed a sentinel iʻe-iʻe
to pause within a waist-high grove of acacia trees, their branches bouncing,
that briefly sheltered us so we could gaze back at the gentle descent
                                                                                       of the deep, green land
rolling below out towards the grey glint of the sea that shimmered beyond.                   

Alex stopped and took a picture—Annalena, 12, her brown hair spearing out
                                                                                                    in a halo from her head
like you see in the paintings of saints from the Quattrocento, rays of light in an aura,
her raincoat blue as the folds of robe in the tondo by Michelangelo,
the roil of landscape spread out like an arcane scroll with its green myths.                                 

She gazed at the yellow zigzag of sun as it broke through an archipelago
                                                                                                      of slate clouds
and made a blaze of script over the sentient slope of lava land.
An ampersand or treble clef it seemed, that morphed into sōsho
a sunshower of ideograms—the billowing calligraphy of words for wind
                                                                    flowing through grasses of a meadow.




Tanzaku: Seven Snapshots in Italy

Orvieto to Firenze

Carousels and their gaudy flickers of light,
candy-skinned ponies,
the circumference of the world aswirl…

From the start you struck poses, voguing,
lifting your arm, torso twisted, contraposto,
an aerialist, barely earthbound…



A dandelion big as your face, radiant white starburst,
puffball of Aeoleus and putti…. Cheeks full of wind like Diz,

you blow and, from the stem in your hand, stars stream,
each a universe, kind of Mnemosyne, parachutes of promise…


San Zaccaria

You wear a pea-green GoreTex jacket over Gap Kids cottons,
your feet in Mary Janes, and strike a kabuki pose,
one leg outstretched, the other bent at the knee,

and I recognize it’s a mi-é from Sukeroku, your umbrella a peony
blooming over your shoulder as though the Venetian rain
were just layered on a cobblestone street in Osaka.



Four years old, you climbed 3,000 stairs…
the look down from the rim of the bell of the apse…
the look up through all the winding murk…

until that burst of sunlight and wind
opened to the roofs of the city laid out
like 10,000 scales on a terra-cotta fish. 


The Bridge of Sighs

You loved the tale of Casanova diving from the bridge in escape,
a gondola awaiting him, its black prow coursing through the lacquer of night,

your smile while crossing the narrow hall, the grin of a goblin,
eyes lit by the brief moon of my camera’s flash. 


Birthday in Bassano

The glee, fork poised over a plate of squid-ink pasta…


Le Giubbe Rosse

Near recumbent on your side, you lounged in the linen seat,
your face becalmed, a Noh mask agaze at the Everlasting. 




Garrett HongoGarrett Hongo was born in Volcano, Hawaiʻi and grew up on the North Shore of Oʻahu and in Los Angeles. He was educated at Pomona College, the University of Michigan, and UC Irvine. His latest works are Coral Road: Poems and The Mirror Diary: Selected Essays. An autobiographical essay appears in the current Georgia ReviewHe’s now finishing work on The Ocean of Clouds (poems) and The Perfect Sound: An Autobiography in Stereo (nonfiction). He teaches at the University of Oregon.

Header by Alexander Hongo. Photo of Garrett Hongo by Franco Salmoiraghi. is the world’s first online journal of place, publishing a rich mix of literature, art, commentary, and design since 1998.