If You Want to View Paradise

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If You Want to View Paradise When the sugar cane burned a thick pillar of black smoke twisted and grew up from the fields. The beanstalk of cloud was seen from anywhere on the island and for an afternoon everyone stopped their chores, their cars, their machines to exhale at the desecrating monster. The fire lifted soil, plant debris, worker's gloves and t-shirts forgotten in the fields, insects and rats, children forgotten in the fields, all charred to ash, into the air, stirred it up and threw it back to earth to be interpreted by a more creative voodoo. Cane ash cycloned up in the pillar and blew onto nearby communities with the tradewinds. Curled black ash rained down on my brother and me playing basketball in the driveway. The ash, light, tossed in the wind, collected curled in corners like loose pubic hair. The farmers burned the cane purposefully. They followed the flame, directing it to burn row after row. Late into the night they followed the fire in a semi-circle on the upwind side wearing Hula Bowl t-shirts around their faces like bandits to filter the smoke. Train robbers trying to control the steam locomotive with shovels. Trains have a tendency to run away. The fire husked the cane for them and though it burned a portion of the precious sugar it also burned the glass hairs along the stalk that itched skin and throats for days. The cane fields spread in rows like radio waves echoing out from the base of the Waianai mountain range. On these mountains, closer the peaks at the topmost corner, was a preserve, a deathbed for the last pristine area on the island. Here the rarities mingled in an elite cocktail party for the terminally ill. The Ohia Lehua rooted shallow on the cliffsides, its wood trunk dry like beach wood and its blossoms a blood red exploding out like firecrackers from light green dime shaped leaves. Ala ala wai nui crawled out of holes in boulders. It is called a succulent, its leaves absorb water and are thick and peach fuzzed for it. It is strong enough to break rocks but can not conquer a field of pili grass. The Manono's leaves come out two at a time, opposite each other on the same node. They look like cho cho lips, fat lips, puckering up. They are not plants that grow together supporting and encouraging one another to grow.

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