parallax background

“Plantation Cinema”
and Other Poems


Tony D'Arpino

Art by Jason Middlebrook


Plantation Cinema

a hawk
in a high footprint of sky
north of Hilo

paths lead to palaces
books lead to other books
but films and hawks
lead to dreams

an old plantation town
on the Hamakua coast
sky seen through the ruined roof
of the abandoned movie theatre

a crumbling Hawai'ian Craftsman
1919 Plantation-style cinema barn
overgrown with morning glory vines
the seats a mass of moss

green audience of air
the narrow lobby laced with leaves
dark fern and rotted wood
the trades rewinding in the palms

when talkies came
a new sound deafened everything
windward rain on the vast tin roof
laughing go back tomorrow see matinee


Silk Script

my girl book
a tree under everything
white mulberry (Morus alba)

textiles flowers and flyers
the soft fabric diary dancing
yellow silk is a knife

a mulberry knife
the beautiful giant silk moth (Bombyx mori)
is killed with a bird-needle boiled and eaten

my girl knife
saturn feeding the children
artist’s rifles and pornographic coins

in a reverse harem
thirteen inch golden daggers stolen
(again) from Ur grave goods

silk is a murder weapon
your power is not power
when the batteries go dead

my blue knife with a warm Pacific mother
hand painted beach
house of flying daggers

one smoking knife
in a landscape of subterfuge
hokey losers reading silk subtitles

smile machetes path clearing
through the genomes
of the wrong knife


The Radio Tree

There are places in the messages
Like roads in the seas
That are familiar or made
Familiar by long use
A remembered word shared
Like fish or fruit
Knowledge of an unseen island
The faint insistent tug

Of a new current
A sleeping instrument
Entering a target orbit
The moondial at noon
Casting its tropic shadow
On an old code committed to memory
A semaphore of flags
Flapping in solar wind

I sit in the tree and listen
For my faint saint breathing
In her ribbon of sky
An echo of that one baton
On two kettle drums
Pulling the message raft
Into a bright network
Of luminous islands

Vertebrae of palm trees
Hearing the sea shell
A satellite of wax
Flung in the spiral
The message floats away
Like a label from its bottle
Spreading sandy x-rays
Throughout the archipelago