A Hawaiian Lament, a poem by Ed Ciliberti

waikiki-beach-553621_640Like many new residents to Hawaiʻi, Ed Ciliberti had a surface knowledge of Hawaiʻi history. One day in Waikīkī, he was struck how the leading edge of hotels nearly blocked the view of iconic Diamond Head. How had Hawaiʻi come to this? He realized then that he really didnʻt know about the unique history of the Native Hawaiian people and decided that would change. Through the Senior Visitor Program at Leeward Community College, Ed enrolled in Hawaiian Studies class. The class, taught by Kumu John Laimana, helped him see how historical events struck at the very root of Hawaiian culture. Through his powerful poem, A Hawaiian Lament, Ed Ciliberti proves that it is possible to learn new things – at any age – and become the better for it.

He lawaiʻa no ke kai pāpaʻu; he pōkole ke aho; he lawaiʻs no ke kai hohonu he loa ke aho
A fisherman of the shallow seas uses only a short line; a fisherman of the deep sea has a long line
A person whose knowledge is shallow doesnʻt have much, but he whose knowledge is great, does. (Pukui, ʻŌlelo Noʻeau #725)

Meet the author: Ed Ciliberti

A Hawaiian Lament

Iconic Leʻahi, Pele’s fired breath formed you,

when the Akua strode the celestial realms.

Now mere towers of brick, mortar and glass

press you on all sides, squeezing your majesty.


In recent times haole tars scrambled your

bushy slopes. Mistaking silvered stones for jewels,

they christened you, Diamond Head.


You’re a captured beastie king today, jailed by bars.

You’re a humbled Samson, chained to pillars.

Like Prometheus, you are rock-bound, and liver pecked,

for gifting creation with Olympian fire.


Will you roar up again with living fire

to burn away the many insults

of younger siblings to their elder brother?


Or, have haole merchants and haole warriors

banked your fiery passion forever?

Will your ancient glory not burst forth again?

Have Kū, Kane, Lono and Kanaloa dwindled

to nothings in the darkness of evermore?


Credits: Video by Rokki Midro, feature photo courtesy of Pixabay

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