Through two torn holes in his faded
T-shirt, we view the massive back
of the Tufuga’s apprentice.

As a crossed-legged mountain,
he leans over Moses’ arm.
Moist wind, the mouthpiece
of the Pacific, swabs,
then salt-licks each surface of the fale
as the apprentice presses down
on young skin.

Here Moses’ story drifts
between pillars and rafters
hand-bound with jute.
Weaving from beam to beam
its ‘ie toga sways its exquisite fringe
of sielo strings and blessed reggae.

Faintly it strokes
the flesh of his attending aunties, his grandma,
his uncles, his cousins, his tataued brother
(even parents and siblings an ocean away),
and it breathes its tapped vision
into the Tufuga’s hands.

The au lifts,
like a wand of teak
or the stretched-out neck
of a hunting crane
whose sharpened beak
dreams of flesh.
Clumps of cumulus snag
on hills who inhale
them from the sky
as chattering palms lift
their serrated teeth
high above the au’s sharp

Here is the pool
of ashes born from flame
and lama nut.
Here’s where the laufala matt lifts,
untucked by the hands of tidal wind,
and the tap-tap-tapping begins.
Wood kissing wood
startles blood to the surface.
Fire-flood of crimson learns the douse
of wet ink.

The apprentice’s T-shirt lifts—
a flash of his Pe’a
speaks of his ancestors,
the black-lined horizons of man-skin
and pain, deep floating
just above his lavalava.
As a banyan root seeking
seeped rain, his hands lock
onto Moses,
who is lying, face down,
in stillness.

Blue wraps with blue—
cotton patterns covering
Moses’ legs as he enters now,
as a man,
into oceans, into cloud-forests,
and lava-drunk veils of rain,
onto matai and ‘ava, long-rooted
in centuries, onto indigo symbols
mapping his way,

Now swimming the swim
of Le Pale,
where his tamamatua, Seminale, built
his house with last days,
where Auntie Tua and Lise
build gardens, which the jungle
Where his tinamatua, Shirley, plants
her heart deep
by roots of teuila flower shooting
torches of hot fuchsia into day,
where the papaya tree
sheds soft bombs
of sweetness
as volcanic rock quickly paves
with porous prayers
the jungle’s sacred way.

Meanwhile, the moon steps
forward from its dusk-dip
with coral,
to be the first one to view,
the first to exclaim
with a burst
of wind-washed stars

as Moses rises, alongside his ancestors,
and now glistening with black light,
steps into evening,
onto its exquisite tatau of rain.
About the Author 
Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Utah, performance poet Jean Howard resided in Chicago from 1979 to 1999. She has since returned to Salt Lake City. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Off The Coast, Clackamas Literary Review, Harper’s Magazine, Eclectica Magazine, Eclipse, Atlanta Review, among others.