Two Poems by Ryan Oishi: Prayer for Surf and Wal-Mart, A Love Poem

Prayer for Surf

Lord, by your divine grace, may the surf be epic tomorrow

the way Guy Hagi said on the surf report last night

but not too epic, Lord, head high or smaller please, otherwise I no can handle

Lord, may there be no sharks in the water,

cruising in da surf,

but if get, Lord, please surround me with other surfers

just in case of one shark attack

except of course Lord, if all da surfers are Hawaiian, or part-Hawaiian, cause a guy

wen tell me that sharks no attack Hawaiians,

(Hawaiians eat fish/ eat Hawaiians/ eat/ fish eat Hawaiians—I heard that

somewhere too, Lord)

but Lord, not too many surfers, please, or else going be like one H-1 traffic jam, all

back up, or more worse,

like Canoes, ho dat place is dangerous,

remember, last summer, Lord, my friend, the skeg wen split his thigh open,

all the way to the bone,

could see the nerves and da fat tissue and everyting spilling out, blood everywhere,

guaranteed had sharks, Lord.

Lord, in that case, maybe couple surfers then,

like da time had da sewage spill after the 40 days of rain and couple

people wen make cause dey wen catch the flesh-eating disease, no not

leprosy Lord, (blessed be Father Damien)

ho the rain was biblical Lord, you must have been piss off for try and

drown us.

But remember, Lord, had only me and this other guy,

Lance I tink his name was,

and e-veryting was perfeck,

had choke waves, no more nobody,

just me and Lance

and not too much wind—

ho, Lord, I caught so much waves I could barely lift my arms afterwards

Lord, may the water not be too cold tomorrow morning

may I wake up early so I can surf dawn patrol

may I not forget the sunblock this time

or da wax

may I not be mistaken for a Japanese tourist.

Lord, tell Fate Yanagi I love her.

May I not be on-call tomorrow at the PK, otherwise I no can go

but hopefully, may I work the day after that so I can pay my car insurance

Lord, May Rasta Jap not be present tomorrow, da guy one asshole,

he take all da waves that fucka, even the shitty ones,

and no share with nobody—

at least he get one shitty car, probably no more car insurance.

Thank you, Lord.

Lord, in your divine wisdom, may they build more luxury condos

along Ala Moana—

no can see da mountains anymore, but da buildings so tall

they block da wind

and da sunsets looks so beautiful in green tinted windows.

Wal-Mart, A Love Poem

Something there is that doesn’t love a Wal-Mart.

But the Korean bars are closing, my love,

and tonight raw Ahn nyeongs make me cry—

What thoughts of you tonight, my love—

florescent lights illuminate the spoils of empire

and rows of refrigerated milk that will spoil in a week.

What t-shirts and what push-up bras! Micronesians by the telephones,

Koreans by the golf clubs.

My love, flowered skirts are searching for a micro-phone[i]

and now they are by the micro-waves,

they are coming in waves,

they are smiling and waving, “Eh, howzit! Mogethin. How you?”

My love, before the milk expires

sail with me down this lovely fleet of aisles.

God is love and love is an unyielding Tide® that cleanses

or at least Crest® toothpaste.

It’s as valuable as Ivory® or a Goldfish®, and more refined than

a Chicken-of-the-Sea®.

My love, in 1 Corinthians it says love is as rich as a Mayonnaise jar.

(I believe them).

It is as round as a Goodyear®,

as refreshing as a Mountain Dew®.

Love is Glad© in its own Milky Way®, a Juicy Fruit®, a Starburst®-ing in an open mouth.

Love is bread, yes that’s it, love is bread, and we have arrived at the Love’s® bread which is the body of Jesus risen.

My love, not even Wal-Mart can contain my love for you.


My love, when did shelves grow taller then men?

And when did valleys learn to shed their shadows?

My love, as we walk through these valleys

only the dead can keep their shadows in such a well-lit place

(but not their names).

My love, don’t be afraid,

they’ve packed the bones away in a Matson container, my cousin Melvin has seen shadows on his graveyard-shift.[ii]

They are the shadows of workers carrying sandalwood on callous backs.

They are the shadows of the ruling class with shopping carts

full of teak furniture and expensive silk,

MADE IN CHINA by other workers with callous backs.[iii]

My love, let’s pay for it all in picculs and Mastercards.

(Thaddeus that bark has put us twelve years in debt).

I hereby declare this bread and mayonnaise the Sandwich Aisles!

(and these golf clubs the Sand-wedge Aisles!)

Let’s take down the bicycles and ride them in circles until we’re out of breath and eat sugar straight from the boxes

and empty the rest into one giant mountain until the sugar is in our blood,
my love, the sugar it’s already in our blood

it’s been there for four generations, where’s the mosquito repellent?

My love, look, it’s starting to rain.

It’s raining from the ceiling or maybe from the white florescent lights that swallow shadows.

It’s raining, it’s raining,

the sugar mountain is dissolving

and now people are saying they saw the eye of the hurricane

starting in the Vision Center.

My love, the t.v.’s are all saying it’s a Category 5.

There’s no where for the rain to go.

It’s rising at our ankles now—here take this umbrella—

When it reaches our waist, put on these snorkels and fins

use these loaves of Love’s© bread as flotation devices,

hold your breath, prepare for the worst.

My love, a big wave has come

and large fishes from the dark ocean have come

which we have never seen before,

and when they see the small fishes they will eat us up.[iv]

My love, Walmart has conquered Kaua‘i![v]

I have heard the eternal footman Snicker® while tourists consume

Hawaiian Hosts© by the box-full.

My love, the kolea are circling overhead,

George Helm is drowning in aisle nine-teen.

My love, my cousin Melvin doesn’t know how to swim.

Why must they drive down prices on his back?

Why won’t they let him Unionize?[vi]

My love, stock up on Charmins® and rice

and prepare to Strike!

The Band in the Band-aid will not fix their signatures

they are eating rocks and singing.

My love, Labor gave birth to every car battery.

I’ve brought a mango seed in my pocket, here, we’ll plant it in aisle nine-teen beside George Helm’s hallowed body

and all the mangoes will be free.

My love, a man goes to Walmart to buy the things he can afford,

and though a great wave comes

there is infinite hope in the stars upon your cheek:

the Big Dipper is spilling out stars across your neck,

it points true to Polaris.

My love, there is Hokule‘a, and there six degrees above your waist,

the Southern Cross crucified.

My love, even in the darkest hour

when every compass has sunk to the bottom of the sea

when the eye of the hurricane makes it difficult for us to see,

with you I will never be lost.

We have all entered through these doors:

welcome to Walmart!”

My love, which is more—

the names of stars, or all the dead,

or all the things in a Wal-Mart store?

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Ryan Oishi teaches English at the Kamehameha Schools. A graduate of Punahou and the University of Southern California, he received a Master of Fine Arts from UH Månoa. His poetry, including these two poems, has been published in Tinfish, and he wrote a chapter in The Value of Hawai’i 2.

[i] Under the Compact of Free Associations Micronesians aren’t allowed to vote, and thus lack a political voice in Hawai‘i.

[ii] During construction, 42 sets of human remains were unearthed from the Wal-mart site. Wal-mart’s spokesperson Cynthia Lin told the AP that Wal-Mart was treating the Hawaiian remains with respect by placing them “in an air-conditioned, darkened trailer in a secure location on the site.”

[iii] The sandalwood trade was Hawai’i’s first full-blown incorporation into the global market place. Maka‘ainana were sent into the mountains to retrieve sandalwood to pay for luxury items imported by the ali‘i. According to Kamakau: “It was through sandalwood that slavery replaced freedom to the people. Natives were treated like cattle. Up and down the treacherous mountain trails they toiled, loges and sandalwood strapped to their sweating shoulders. Men and women actually became deformed due to the tremendous weight of the logs on their backs.” (Kamakau, Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii, p. 51). These workers were referred to as “kua leho,” or “callous backs.” (Kelly, Social Processes v.35).

[iv] David Malo’s famous prophecy, made in a letter to Kauikeaouli’s kuhina nui, in 1837.

[v] Kamehameha, uniter of the islands, was unable to conquer Kaua‘i. A Wal-mart was built in Lihue in the mid 90’s.

[vi] In the past, Walmart has provided “A Manager’s Toolbox to Remaining Union Free,” which lists warning signs that workers might be organizing. The “Toolbox” gives managers a hotline to call so that company specialists can respond rapidly and head off any attempt by employees to organize.

1 Comment

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One response to “Two Poems by Ryan Oishi: Prayer for Surf and Wal-Mart, A Love Poem

  1. Great to see you in print, Ryan! Love the political stance.


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