At a Starbucks in San Diego, I

overheard a woman witnessing

to another and she said, “The Bible

interprets itself,” definitively, and the ocean

was not in sight on this crowded corner but I

would walk up the hill guided by palms

later and there it would spread out

a vision beyond and below the green

quads and stoic campus so I remembered

what came from the unseen

across this ocean: the maile leaf

dipped in gold and strung

on a long chain, received

twenty-five years ago with a card defining

its significance, the fragrance

repressed by solid sheen, suppleness

encased in brittle curves.

                                           Your parents

transported fresh maile lei

for your crowning

moments, always regal never

“Smiley Miley” cute. Your gift

to me, preserved across oceans and

cultures by a Midas touch a reminder

of your name as aura and bond: Maile

as bridge and celebration.

                                            I’m pounding these

metallic words with fingertips as mallets

and worry the leaf

within will be lost to you, invisible or

replaced because remember that time I

let J. read my journal and he

returned it with analysis, graphs

even charting my mood swings over

months and drawing correlations and

you called him an android?

                                             What if

translation makes words more

authentic the way I once heard

that “virgin” may have been more

like “maiden” and maybe or maybe not

an actual virgin because slippery

language is rolling out

of our mouths over saliva and taste

buds onto impermanent

pages and what we hold on to

might actually be arbitrary but we think

it is the only defining thing

like the maile leaf made

souvenir and friendship pact.

                                                    I knew

I had to tell you because you

are the expert on innuendo and double

entendre when words lure while

all mine do is blaspheme and I see

the book between people on a metal table

the lookout at the top of the hill

the ocean beyond the street corners

the mallet in my hand

the solitary leaf around my neck

meaning so many things to so many people.