When years were long with labor in the sugarfields,
I sought a wife, at last, choosing her from a photograph.
She was but fifteen, a shy child of a bride
wrapped in faded kimono, as I likewise was wrapped in wind,
a man of thirty, weathered by work in the green seas
of cane, my savings finally enough to take my wedding vows.
Before then, it was to the coming world that I made vows
to wrest a new life from the earth and leave the fields
so I might cast my eyes without sorrow from mountains to the sea,
never again to falsify who I was in a photograph
as though I were a clerk or a saddler, sheltered from the constant winds,
the image I’d sent, a deception to my young bride.
She was young but daily growing, my new bride.
We stood on the pier and took our vows,
and I led her to the North Shore, its mountains torn by winds,
below them the rippling green fields
of cane stretching all the way to the sea,
a landscape no one would care to photograph.
Before we left, someone took a photograph—
this laborer and downcast picture bride
half his age at their dockside ceremony of vows—
staged before a background of slate-gray seas
and the small curls of waves tossed by winds,
impassive faces resigned to a hard life in the canefields.
We were destined never to leave the fields—
my wife gave birth to a son we did not photograph
as, before he could cry, he was taken by the wind
that came betrothed as his own promised bride,
journeying from the Afterworld over storm-tossed seas,
our mortal dreams of a better life all but disavowed.
She herself died within a year of our vows
and so finally escaped the sugarfields,
a ghost in flight, ha-alele-hana, over the dread seas
that never would be captured in a photograph,
so that, ever after, only resolve would be my bride
and my mourning cloak a coat of harsh winds.
Only the wind knows my sorrows now, whatever vows
my bride and I made are forever lost in the sugarfields,
this photograph the one moment we lived apart from life’s cold seas.