Moths swerve to candles as the weight
Of light pulls them in orbit about a flame.
I look north from the Sacramento Airport
To the oak trees bunched on Elverta Road
Where my parents’ home once gleamed
Like a candle of love wrought wax drawing
Out my childhood of old December nights.
Now that house is gone, moved to a place
Where the light does not penetrate as far.
Now it is a December morning rushing me
Back to Hawai‘i, where my wife and children
Glow with warmth. That glow draws me home
As a parent. If light has no mass, how can lights
Past and present weigh so much within my chest?
What does a moth do between two candles?
Kenneth Tokuno spent his youth in Sacramento where his father had a farm north of the airport. He has published over 100 poems in journals all over the west coast and Hawaii. His book of poems, Orchard, was published by Bellowing Ark Press in 2007. He has lived in Hawaii since 1993. His poetry is usually inspired by his relationships to family and friends.
If, upon returning to the mainland from the island,
you don’t go and knock on their door
you’ll always be here, as if on the island,
adrift between island and mainland shore,
always outside their closed door.
If you don’t go where they are and knock
they’ll go on with their lives.
Should some sight or sound remind them of you
it will be you don’t care, you never loved them.
You tell yourself approaching that shore
I love, loved and will love them. They are better
left alone, going on as they have been
since the morning I set out from the mainland.
I had to. That much was clear.
If, upon returning to the mainland, you don’t knock
on their door they’ll go on, no thoughts of you,
except sight or sound remind them.
Their faces clear in memory. The ones you love.
Peter Mladinic’s poems have appeared in numerous online journals. He has published three books of poems Lost in Lea, Dressed for Winter, and Falling Awake in Lovington, all with the Lea County Museum Press. His forthcoming Knives on a Table will be out soon from Better Than Starbucks Publications. He lives with six dogs in Hobbs, New Mexico.
“If” began over ten years ago as a much longer poem, with more in the way of imagery to evoke an individual who, over time, went out of the poem. Part of that poem involved the topic of letting people drive while intoxicated. About two years ago, I worked on it some more and got something like the final draft, but longer. I couldn’t bring it into focus as a whole. I stepped away, and then recently wrote what you see, fairly quickly, though I’d been very familiar with previous drafts.