From Pineapple Wine:
Some mornings before dawn on the road from Kihei to Kahului
the police will flag you down. Through black smoke
on the road peek orange cones like dunce caps pointing out the errors
of our ways, while a punishing stench unlike any you have
experienced before hits your nostrils. Then you will see it:
live fire burning the cane fields.
And across the road, steaming like an upended locomotive,
churning, belching a noxious path
straight up through the air, looms one of the last
operating sugar mills on the Hawaiian Islands.
Particles of burned cane mixed in the air with volcanic grit
from the Big Island have created a thin layer of black
that coats everything in its path. It looks like salt from hell.
As they open the screen doors to their lanais, condo dwellers
on South Kihei Road in Maui will find black curls of charcoal
skittering like dead leaves across the tile floor
and glass tabletops.
If they sit in a lawn chair without wiping it down,
they will have an abstract print stenciled on the back
of their tee shirts when they stand up.
I pick up a curl of the stuff, rub it between thumb
and forefinger, watch it crumble. I feel as if I am handling
a shard of pottery from a downed ancient ship.
It is all that remains of an era when sugar, like cotton,
Note: The last shipment of sugar cane left the harbor in
Kahului, Maui, on Christmas day, 2017.