Lee Kava


1. Half­caste

A person of mixed race descending

from parents of different atmospheric layers like

one parent troposphere

the other stratosphere

Smearing each other’s sweat

Exhaling floating daughters

2. Mixed­race

Relating to people of different

directions, relations

shipping over seas and skies

crossing racial borderlines

So when Tongans ask

“Why so light?”

You look skyward saying

“Ask the airlines.”

3. Hyphenated

Of, relating to, or designating

a person, group or organization

of mixed origin, I –

dentify as you like

but what they really want to know

is not that you like punk-

rock, or action-

adventure, but

how far you can straddle

over pick up lines like

“mixed girls keep it tight” ­

they are never

prepared for the tongue-

lashings of strong-

dashed women.

4. Question Mark

Otherwise known as interrogation

marked eyes upon

body hair skin soul

Family, strangers both confused

you don’t know how to

Tongan American Pacific Islander Woman enough

Interrogative ogling wondering

“Where’d she come from?

guess that hafekasi don’t know how to navigate

earth’s curves or dot

the right identity


5. Period

Also called the full stop

punctuation mark ending

long­sentenced notions

that single mothered mixes

are mistakes.

In fact, we are

the 9­monthed periods

of declarative mothers,

not half-

raised, but fully

loved decisions. We

are strong casts

of wind and water, we

are the mixed breaths

of air

and sea.

Copyright © Lee Kava. This poem was originally published in 2014 in issue 80 of the Hawai’i Review, a student-run journal at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa.

photo credit: Yu Suenaga, sculpture in photo by Filipe Tohi

Lee Kava is a hafekasi musician and poet of Tongan descent, currently pursuing her PhD in creative writings at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. She is the founder of the Pacific Verse, a poetry music-writing workshop series that works with participants to create original lyrics and music using indigenous Pacific languages. She dedicates her work to the genealogy of creative expression in Oceania, and hopes to make positive social change through Pacific music and poetry.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

Curator’s Notes: Lee Kava investigates labeling, punctuation, identification, race, and knowledge in her poem “Hafekasi.” Kava’s poetry and music bring essential doses of intricate, restorative reality. Always gifted with beautiful intellect and firm strength, Kava takes us to the deeper home, reason.