Two Poems by Lois-Ann Yamanaka

BOMB 46 Winter 1994
046 Winter 1994
​Katherine Bowling

Katherine Bowling, Untitled, 1990, charcoal on paper, 38 × 38 inches.

My Eyes Adore You

Aunty Nancy have a baby boy; he no mo daddy.
Us had one before, but now, he don’t know us.
Aunty Nancy’s Baby Boy have sev-ral choice for daddy.
She waiting to see who he look like
when he grow up.

Mama stand by her bedroom door and push
the pink and red bamboo beads aside. She blast
the musk oil on each inside thigh.
Shit. I hate kids.

Tonight got the 39 and Under
basketball league at the high school gym.
All Mama’s and Aunty Nancy classmates playing in this
That’s what they told us.
But we know

that over there’s
the right place to be for finding men.
And talking after the games.
A    long    time in the parking lot. And beers.

Me and my sista, C, going be walking
home by ourself tonight.
Maybe me by myself. C sometimes stay with Mama.
I going be carrying Baby Boy home. Again.

The gym lights look gold.

I hear squeaking of gym shoes on hardwood floor
and feet pounding up and down the court. Men yelling.
I smell wet towels under hot lights and sweaty shoes.
I smell Mama and Aunty Nancy, Jovan Musk oil yelling.

WillyJoe playing this game.
The Fil-Ams versus the Weekend Warriors.
Somebody’s arm hit Willyjoe when he see us coming.

Mama to Aunty Nancy:

    Not bad, Willy.
    I mean for this town
    and what we get
    for choose from.
    But he neva did grad.
    He supposed to be same class
    with my cousin Frankie.

    Check him,
    check him,
    Surfa body and ehu hair.
    But he kinda talk simple-minded stuff.
    Maybe I might want to do him
    (whispering low now so I cannot hear)
    every night, ’cause you know, Nance,
    you take what goods you get in this fuckin’ town,
    and his grapes, they hanging
    pretty heavy on the vine.
    I take anybody’s grapes in my mouth
    for drink some wine.

Baby Boy crying so Aunty Nancy flicks his mouth.
See you guys later, I tell them.
I going sit outside on the steps.
Mama could care less by this time.
I see it in her glistening eyes.

Uncle Reggie, the Parks and Rec man, eating pun-kin
seeds outside the door under the bulb
light swinging in the squeaky wind.
He flicking the shells in the big tin trash can
’cause he the one in charge.


He give me orange Fanta, one handful of pun-kin seeds.
The scoreboard horn go off. End of game.
The men go into the locker room.
The men in the next game come running out onto
the court high school basketball team style
with a layup drill and jumpshots.

Then Uncle Reggie say to me,

    I wen’ ask Willy for take you home tonight
    so you no need walk home Baby Boy by yourself.
    I no like you walking home like that. Not safe.

    Me, I gotta clean the concession, check the locker rooms,
    dust mop the floors then lock up the gym
    afta the last game so going be too late

    for me take you home by the time I pau all that.
    And I tell you what else, if Nancy come out here
    before Willy pau shower, leave that baby with her.

    Ass hers. Not yours. There.
    There Willyjoe.

Willy hair all slick back.
Willy smell like Aqua Velva.
No. Like Brut.
No. Like musk oil.

C’mon. Us go, Willyjoe says. No walk by yourself.
Your madda going be here with all the boys
till three o’clock drinking beer.
Her and Nancy. Us go.

The yellow Datsun smell like ripe
strawberry and the seats fuzzy. The back seat down
and Willy put one tape in the 8-track.

            (though I never laid a hand on you)
    My eye adore you.
    Like a million mile away from me (he singing soft)
    you couldn’t see how I adore you,
    so close,
    so close and yet so far.
     (he singing to me, I think)

He catch himself and he come shame.
We go play um loud. Real loud
the way I like um, he says. You like go
straight home or you like go riding first?
Us go riding. I like show you something nice.

I so stun by his face.
The smell.
What he saying.
How he sing to me.
I cannot talk.

He park behind the baseball field, the back side.
He tell me the story of green
he made up from what the field look like when all lit up
’cause he the P and R Scoreboard man for Uncle Reggie.

How seagreen and aquamarine almost the same.
How he watch me
sitting in the stands
waiting for Uncle Reggie.

And a pheasant, a Japanese blue ringneck, he seen
in the middle of the baseball field early one morning.
How his Uncle Penny told him about its intro-duck-tion
to the island. And how on the morning
him and Uncle Reggie seen um,
the bird yank his red face up and down and straight up
when he catch the downwind smell of a man
and fly away all jerky into the sky.

He tell me if he was a goat
how he would love to eat
the manienie, honohono and dandelions on the hill
next to the field ’cause look so lush from here.

How he watch me
swimming laps after school,
walking home close to night,
how my eyes
just like his, he say:

    Need somebody to read um right for once
    ’cause they brown and chilly, scare
    sometimes, just like mine, he say.

            though I never lay a hand on you

He changing the end of the song,
making up the words.

My eyes.
My eyes. Fill.
He ain’t simple, Mama. Ain’t


Dead Dogs RIP

My sista stay in the back of the garage
digging a grave for her egg-stealing,
all heartworms, coughing,
and stink breath dog.

Wiki wen’bite my friend Claude
on his ass ’cause he said fuck
in our house. My sista told him
no say f-word around Wiki
but Claude start screaming fuckfuckfuck
in my sista’s face for fun
and Wiki wen’ rush his ass, for real.
But now Wiki dead.

My sista came in the house
and wen’ cry over and over
and louder and louder,
Wiki, Wiki, why you wen’ die?
My madda had to slap her face couple times
so she snap out of it.

Me, I went outside
for check out Wiki’s grave.
Had plumerías on top the dirt
and red anthuriums from my fadda’s patch
and some bagasse sprinkle
on top the grave.
She put one cross
made from guava branch and rope
and she plant one kumquat tree
my fadda wen’ plant
in the big cafeteria bean can.

And on the wall of the garage,
my sista wen’ write,
with the kiawe charcoal
from the smokehouse.

My sista come stand by me
next to the grave.
Me, I try for look sad,
but really, I hate Wiki.
Everytime, just for make me mad,
my sista used to whisper secrets
to Wiki when she mad at me
and act like they talking stink.
She tell, Wiki, you know what I mean, eh,
them, they so psst, psst, psst,
and she make Wiki nod her head
like I know, I know.
Then she laugh loud
and carry Wiki to her bed
for put her under the blanket
by the pillow and feed her
mint chocolate chip ice cream
from the same spoon,
dog spit and all.
Ass why I hate her.

But now, I no say nothing,
I just bow my head
like maybe I praying for Wiki.
Pretty soon, my sista pick up the kiawe
and write on the wall:

SUKI Daughter of WIKI hit by car
MANA Fall from truck inter-no bleed
BUFFY Soo-e-side
CLIFTON Poison by Feda-rico
PEPE Big red dick, gave um away
MIDI Stolen at Kai Store
LIBBY Dead on steps
CHEWIE Daughter of LIBBY kidnap by Purto Recans
CHICO? Dunno
HOPPY? Dunno
D B Smash

And she write again:


She put her face in her hands,
all charcoal all over,
and her whole body shake,
soft kine.


Lois-Ann Yamanaka writes in the pidgin of the contract workers who came to the sugar plantations of Hawaii in the late 1800s. Her first collection of poetry, Saturday Night at the Pahala Theatre is out now on Bamboo Ridge Press.

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Originally published in

BOMB 46, Winter 1994

Featuring interviews with Haruki Murakami, Ileana Douglas, Dan Graham, Mike Leigh, Campbell McGrath, Dona Nelson, Tran Anh Hung, Julius Hemphill, Stephen Wright, Robert Schenkkan, and Lawrence Gipe.

Read the issue
046 Winter 1994