Jazz Kahuna *

I heard
my friend Pa-ool
play jazz
guitar last night.

His hands
are a poet
with voice
as Lincoln’s—
in his own way,
of course.

Watching his
fingers move,
I move
across water
with him
on an outrigger
made of light.

He plays
In my chair
in the front row
alongside him,
I have landed
a seat in heaven.

My friend
washes windows
and cleans houses
for a living.
As I understand it,
he came
to the mainland
for God. (It’s
a long story.)

I want
to ask him:
do you live
without letting
those hands speak
to people
every day, do
their hula
on the frets?

Isn’t your breathing
done through
the surfaces
of those fingers?

My friend
is a Kahuna.
He sits
in his chair
in his ski-hat,
guitar in arms

and tells stories
of his life
in the islands,
discovering music.

He mentions
a great guitarist
he heard
long ago
on the beach,
then breaks into
“Arrivederci, Roma”,
the way
that mentor
played it.

My friend’s sons
are with him.
They smile
like suns.
He takes up
his ukulele and
they join him
in a song.

You have found
something of great value
in this world
and brought
it with you
on your long
canoe ride

You have made it
your own.
It shines
as you play.

It lights
the room,
and every
in it.
*Kahuna: Hawaiian, “Wise Man”.


About Max Reif

I’m not always sure what poetry is until something MUST be said. Then it does get said, somehow, in the most telegraphic way. This happens frequently during some periods, infrequently during others. I sometimes wonder if a writer is someone for whom an event, an epiphany, does not really “count” until its spirit is somehow rendered so that a reader can enter and share it.

I currently live in northern California, work and play with small children 30 hours a week, work on a cycle of autobiographical stories, deliver “rescued food” to pantries and shelters (see whiteponyexpress.org), and share a safe, quiet home with my wife, Barbara.


Poetry Breakfast accepts submissions of poetry and poetry related creative non-fiction year-round.  See our Submission Guidelines page for details on submitting your work.

Photo by Shawn Gaske.