Listening Session

Aiko Yamashiro



Question: What is good for the economy?

Question: What choice do we have?


At the “listening” session

on January 27, 2015

to discuss the federal government’s plan

to scale down the military in Hawai‘i

by nearly 20,000 soldiers

the pretty wives

click their manicured nails

cluck their manicured lips

at the uncle on the microphone

telling his story

about cleaning up bombs

on other islands

when he was young

how beautiful the fish shimmered.

How they were not safe

to eat anymore

but he’s hopeful now

because his grown daughter

can speak and teach Hawaiian

and that is proof

of healing in the next generation.

They tap on their iPhones

“this is crazy”

“oh god”

they elbow their husbands

they cross and uncross their legs.

I wish I could tell you more

but all I can remember

is how violently they

snickered next to me.


Question: How can we train people to wage war in the land of aloha?

Comment: The people of Hawai‘i should treat the military with aloha.

Comment: For example, think of the Great Aloha Run!


Dawn and I arrived at the “listening” session at the Hale Koa Hotel too late to hear the politicians. But we heard they stood in a line and got to talk before everyone else #keephawaiisheroes They said things like a military downsize would be Deafening to our community and Crippling to our economy. We have to keep focused on what’s important, which is National Security. We saw them afterward walking around the room Smiling and Shaking hands in their Sig Zane shirts. I wondered what they do when they see people in Chinatown Sleeping on the sidewalks, on tarps and tents, Limping just ahead of police sweeps #keephawaiisheroes


In the news the next day, we heard that Andrea had shouted “I want to hear a regular human being!” #keephawaiisheroes before being removed from the room.


Comment: Your laws teach justice, trust. I believed you would take care of us.

Comment: And they gave it back damaged.

Question: And where do they go after they train in Hawai‘i? Who else’s home will be impacted?

Comment: Please keep your testimony to five minutes. Please be clear, for the record.


Let me tell you a related story:


history is ready to testify

across the ocean

still breathing

the reef in Henoko

still hurting

belongs to Okinawa

still wanting relief

but if concrete is poured

maybe if we float

on the reef

our hearts on kayaks

that will belong

maybe if we clench

to the US military

them hard enough

after we fell

you will never

through your words

be welcome here

and shattered


Here is an island and here is an island.

Can you hear what I am saying?


Comment: He doesnt really know his history, does he.

Question: Does there need to be violence to lead to peace?

Question: Can we rebuild life without you?

Question: Can we imagine a different future?

Comment: Please state your position clearly at the start. Yes or no?


Yes, at the end, I remember Kyle

Stepping up to the microphone


Carrying every ancestor he’s chosen

Tenderly through battles yes and grief


Through hearts yes breaking upon the reef

All the old koa trees braced against


The wind breathing yes under our skin

Sleeping in our bones yes how he tried


To give those names to you quietly

Like sacred pōhaku how I must


Learn to fight too. Yes.

With love, and a mouth full of stones.




Aiko Yamashiro is a student and teacher of decolonial literature at the University of Hawaiʻi-Mānoa, and co-editor of The Value of Hawaiʻi 2: Ancestral Roots, Oceanic Visions (University of Hawaiʻi Press, 2014). She is so grateful to all of the brave, loving artist/activists who inspire her poetry and her life.