Shareen K. Murayama

[Flash Fiction]  Hā means breath in Hawaiian


  1. In ancient Hawaiian times, it was important to exchange breath—to smell the living—when greeting someone. Alo means presence, front, or face. Combined it can be summed up as the presence of (Divine) Breath. Aloha.


  1. The Hawaiian word for wind is makani, but there are as many words for wind as Eskimos supposedly have names for snow. However, sometimes the winds were named according to their geographic locations: ‘Alahonua (Hilo), Apa’apa’a (Kohala, Hawai’i), Alahou (Moloka’i), Kaua’ula (Lahaina), and ‘Ahiu (Kahana, ‘Oahu).


  1. But if the naming of the winds often borrowed the names of places, then what of the names from the sounds of sighs or wails of grief and sobs swallowed in the night? Do they qualify for a wind name? From what source or location shall we name them?


  1. Ancient Hawaiians would greet one another by touching each other’s bridges of their noses and inhaling the hā (the breath of life) and mana (the spiritual power between two people).


  1. In an interview, poet Maggie Nelson was asked what she made of the “leaning against” of other texts, other writers’ ideas, that she does in her work. Nelson’s response posited that it wasn’t a leaning against others, but of our consciousnesses deeply intertwined and congealed between us, among us, like “a thick soul-and-mind soup.”


  1. And if all of us make up a collective consciousness of thoughts, poems, and art we feel are ready to share with the world, then what of those floating thoughts from our ancestors before us? And before them? This intertwined connectivity and energy doesn’t cease when one soul dies. The rope doesn’t unravel because one thread is loose. I’d like to believe the winds of the hā and the consciousnesses of all beings are drifting around the world as we inhale and recycle their mana.


  1. When I told my partner I was thinking of writing a collection on the mysteriousness of winds, he looked flummoxed and asked, “As in ‘can of beans’?”


  1. Vietnamese Zen Buddhist Monk Thich Nhat Hahn asks, “When we bathe in the river today that we bathed in the river yesterday, is it the same river?” Impermanence helps transition and healing. Yes, it is a different river today than yesterday, but it’s still the same river.


  1. Can I tell my 17-year old niece “she is the same mother you always had, but different now that she’s dead”? I don’t think her mom’s impermanence is relevant to her yet.


  1. The best kind of wind comes once a year when blowing out birthday cake candles. It’s said that the ritual promises magical and mythical powers–except for those over fourteen and under one hundred.


  1. Half a year after my sister-in-law’s death, my niece confides in me: “I’m starting to understand now. Not only was she not there for my high school graduation, but she won’t be there for my next one, nor for my sister’s, nor my wedding. And what if I have kids? They won’t have a grandmother.” I hug her hard and try not to think of my mom sitting in the care home with only the TV watching her.


  1. I like the sound of the word, wind. Sounds like win. As in winners winning the race, bodies running to the soundtrack from Chariots of Fire and the wind is always blowing in their hair, glorious and shiny.


  1. Unlike the verb wind, like whine. The I will wind up, crank up, increase the tension until your panties twist and eyeballs pop out of your nerves kind of wind. Two contrasting connotations.


  1. At times, maybe it’s better to be a noun than a verb.



Shareen K. Murayama is a poet and recent graduate of Oregon State University’s Creative Writing MFA Program. She promotes the power of students’ voice through a poetry club called the Po’ Heads. Her art has been published in Inter|rupture, Toe Good, Phoebe, The Gambler, and Bamboo Ridge Press. You can find her @ambusypoeming.


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