Why I Marched in Semi-Slushy, Melting Snow Today in Lexington, Kentucky

I first heard of the ERA when I was about eight years old. I overheard a conversation between my cousin, who was about a year older, and my aunt who had adopted me at age four. There was a seriousness in the air. Perhaps, they thought I wasnʻt old enough to understand, or maybe I was just dawdling behind them in our stroll across the lawn—my cousin with burning questions, my aunt with gentle explanations, and I was just there, listening, a silent observer. It had never crossed my mind that we werenʻt equal. I knew there were boy things and girl things, but as far as I was concerned, I could cross the line anytime I wished. My aunt never said, “thatʻs only for boys.” When I told her I wanted the round, rubber-tip boyʻs tennis shoes, she got them for me without trying to squeeze me into narrow, girl shoes. When I wanted to wear Searsʻ jeans with supportive patches on the knees, in the boy section of the catalog she never batted an eye. After all, I played rough. I climbed trees, crawled under houses in good “Hide-and-Seek” games, and was never afraid to get dirty, and plus, they had pockets. Her only complaint was that all my clothes were stained from rolling in Hawaiian, red dirt when playing “Statue Maker.” She told me I was the “dirtiest kid in the neighborhood,” and I accepted that with a sense of pride.  When a doctor suggested active projects to keep me from terrifying nightmares, she bought me a hammer, a saw, wood, and some nails at age five. For my sixth birthday, I asked for Legos and dolls. It never occurred to me later, at age eight, that I would grow up without equal rights because of my gender. But, I did know that my skin color was different. Often white people thought they were complimenting me, but it just reminded me of how I didnʻt belong to white cousins, and how it would be worse if I were darker. The kids next door called me a bastard, because I was a brown child in a white family. Their words hurtled from their mouths, weapons on the wind, taunting jeers that I couldnʻt respond to, because I didnʻt know what that word meant, but I knew it must be bad.

When I was eleven, old white men stared at me, making me uncomfortable. One, telling me what a nice color I was, how I wasnʻt as dark as some natives were, as he groped me with his eyes, later his hands. And I was silent, ashamed of who I was. Ashamed to speak out, until years later.  I had heard stories, but never thought it would be me. My aunt warning us against strange men, but never about men we knew. Just say “no” they always said. Yet, despite the advise, sometime in my life, I couldnʻt stop the catcalls, couldnʻt stop the sexist remarks. Boys will be boys, people said. And women put up with it. I avoided passing groups of men. But, when something sexually violent happened to someone I cared about, I split wide open; the horror, the pain, unable to breathe, shaking from the devastation that had occurred, anger that I couldnʻt prevent this violence from happening to a loved one, remembering my own trauma. The sense of helplessness, rage, yet afraid to speak out.

When Donald Trump was elected President, I knew that Americans had gone mad. A self-proclaimed rapist, supported, upheld, venerated by mostly white men and women.  Some how it was okay to joke about grabbing women by their “pussies”, okay to grope them, to humiliate them, to treat them as lesser beings. And women voted for him, ignoring the fact that 3/5 of all women are molested or raped in our country. Yes, despite the years of work some women have spent trying to bring equality between sexes into our country, some women still voted for him. A sickening sense of betrayal suffocated me for weeks. Also, some Brown and Black people voted for him despite his support for the KKK, despite his disregard and disgust for people of color, people who have migrated from what he now calls “Shit hole” countries, people brought here through slavery, and people who came here hoping to experience the American Dream. Again, a sense of betrayal. I just canʻt even think…how this is okay in this century, after hundreds of years of destroying native lands and native people for money, a devastation that they are still reeling from through poverty, land loss, cultural loss, and western illnesses, along with the highest rate of suicide, depression, and the disappearance of native women, that no one else seems concerned about. Yet, some people of color still voted for him. My words must be garbled, because how does any of this make sense? All this political talk is just a cover up for rape. Raping the land, raping the people—people of color, women, LGBTQ communities, Dreamers, setting the world on fire, pointing war and death missiles at my children. Every day, another rape of my mind. Every day, a holocaust of ideas. I have tried to stay away from the news, tried to stop posting angry rants on social media, but last Saturday, when I thought my children were dying from a false missile attack in Hawaii, I woke from my fake news slumber. And I want to know, what is really going on? I want to know why some of my own non-white, Hawaiian relatives support him. Why is it okay for “Christians” to elect a rapist to office? Why is it okay for a “Christian” to support a President who thinks the KKK is okay? Because I really donʻt understand. I really donʻt. I think they must be asleep. I think they have lost their minds. And maybe even their souls. For money? Because they have run-up their credit cards? Because they are living pay check-to-pay check? Are they really willing to sell out humanity and compassion for this? We have to do better than this.  It reminds me of the chapter in Elie Wieselʻs Holocaust book, Night, where people were literally killing each other for crumbs of bread, but the real monster was Hitler.

I went to the March alone today, watched people I know give impassioned speeches, clapped and cheered, put on my gloves, took them off, smiled at strangers. It rose to 40 degrees, clumps of snow turned to slush. I was surrounded by smiling faces, children, and dogs. In this Red state of Kentucky, hundreds were out, speaking out for women, speaking out for people of color, speaking out for Dreamers, speaking out for LGBTQ issues, speaking out for a loving God, one that believes in compassion, and not fire and DamNation.  The Government shut down on this rally day. And despite the fact that Republicans have the majority in all three houses of government, relatives are still posting that it is Schumerʻs and Pelosiʻs fault. Amazingly, they are really serious about believing that. Despite this crockery, I believe there is still hope, because here, where slavery was once a booming business, where the auction block was once the norm, here where the KKK have rallied, here where Republican Mitch McConnell calls home, there were hundreds out, who stood up for whatʻs right for all humans. I have to believe that things will get better when the people finally wake up. things will get better when the people wake up.

When I First Knew Myself I Was Six


When I first knew myself

the wind whipped my hair into knots

untangled by fingers searching for roots

ropes buried in sea salt brine

in the crook of my arm

in the folds of my skin

secretly breathing in

my own amber scent

pleasure of me

nestled in my lungs

tasting deep wells of sunlight

with my tongue.


KKLE   April 1, 2016

Good Food Gone to Waste


You always serve me good food with your bad news,

and my mouth hangs open:

Food unchewed, Fork splayed to the side,

Cold prongs missing the plate,

Undigested thoughts like frozen peas

in a hot stew.


At least wait ‘til I’m done eating,

‘til the sweet savor of fresh herbs

has had a chance to dissolve on my tongue

in wordless wonder.


Digesting it together would have been better.


January 10, 2016





I’ve been digging for a while

A stubborn weed that won’t let go

fingers prying stones

nails packed with soil

subcutaneous levels of time

digging deep

tiny tendrils seeking dark

Purple, gold, red, black

And the transparency of white

Not knowing the strength of grief

Or the nakedness of light.


Have we grown strong, then?

Barefoot children,

Pressed clothes and slicked back hair,

“Just because we’re poor,

doesn’t mean we have to be dirty”

Cereal boxes and fish hooks,

rail road tracks, and chandelier gems

from a plastic factory across the tracks,

Pacific Islanders in a Mexican barrio

in a foreign land without “birthsands”.


Oh those young roots holding strong in desperation

A generation of mixed breeds pulled apart,

Separated, dispossessed from birthlands

What was there to hold onto then, But each other?


I cried in the dark, afraid,

Of being alone

Of being born

And dying

A bastard

Without a name

To my skin

But you were there. Then.

Clinging rootlets without soil.

Never letting go.


Are we not now resilient weeds digging deep

Ferns turning stones in an Ahu of our own creation

Distant lives in our own image, still holding on.

One Word


parting, and not knowing.

drowning in wanting, needing,

and not having.

in the 11th hour

one word

could keep you going


one word


heard whispering from internal workings

of the Universe,

in tongue, in social media,

threading the air like music

on a Sunday morn

from street

to corner grocery store,

unexpected movement,

speaking to be heard

through the least of these

mouths of the poor,

cardboard desolate,

pavement lonely;


thick calloused worker hands

tenderly counting out dollar bills,

each symbolizing time and hard labor

away from doe-eyed children

clinging to grocery carts

longing for big corporation candy,

wanting, and yet not having

this land of the free

does not diminish want and need.


did you find everything you were looking for

I find myself saying

to a white sleeveless preacher man

Soft-drawled, and crucifix tattoo’d

who beamed cherub-like and replied

“I am blessed with Jesus’ blood And more.”

His pensive wife, tired from worry by his side


to which an elder black man smiled

and chimed across the aisle

“Aren’t you gonna ask me how I am?”

grinning with a glint in his eye

a plaid hat and walking stick

yet still walking out with buoyant stride,

thread-bare pockets and

a loaf of white bread cradled in his arms

and a pocketful of change to spare

throwing a word Into the air

for all to hear




and I react with surprise

recognizing wisdom

whispered from universal wells

of wanting, and longing,

and knowing

that whatever I have is enough

and with a desperate nod,

breathe out


one word.



Karen K.L. Espaniola               September 15, 2015


No tink

I no know

What dat mo`o know

Da one who stay stuck

On da cah windo

Or inside one crack

Or on one doah

All green and secret Like

You know da one

Like da mo`o of ole times

Da one fo good luck

Who like ride inside Maui pocket

Riding da wind

Looking fo land, fo aina, fo one place

Fo come ashore Makai side

But da wind come too strong

Like da one come out your mout

Every day

All nice like

One perfec wave

Til da air come flat

And you jus one stink buggah

Who tink

I no


But I know

like one mo`o


Riding da storm.



dog crap dries in the sun

in this place

this spinning place

gathering uncertainty in my arms

arms of needing

and not having

of stumbling

and crying

in dry laundry

wondering if fall is coming

alone in its coolness

color falling from trees

and needing

to be numb

of her movement

falling from my chest

falling from my eyes

her sound of blue skies

and crisp air

and of kicking this dog crap

high and wide

and away

and falling.



Releasing Crow

Releasing Crow

Releasing Crow

Unfamiliar Stars

My self-esteem is at an all-time high level of low

To return

is to strangle comfortably

To move forward

is to free fall over a cliff

To stand still

is to get swallowed up

by self-loathing.


And there is no place to go

but out

and in

and down

A trail of unfamiliar stars

highlighting unrecognizable paths

in rough waves.

I, Romeo



“I defy thee stars”

twinkling in the world so bright,

A showering of power and might,

Shimmering glow of sweet innocence,

Dismembered ember, distant progenitor of my destiny.

You protected my ancestors upon the sea,

Against fearful shadows and hateful memories.

Yet here I am, a product of your mystery

Alone, and seemingly without a guide,

Embarking on a journey without any at my side.


“I defy thee”

That eats away the known universe

Carrying ancient legends of heroic deeds

Of fearless, selfless men who dared to bleed,

That sends angel gods whispering to my ears

To escape the paradox of wanting to be free

Of wanting,

Of time in memorial,

like scattered flowers in rotting sun,

Still exuding a day of soft petaled love

Nested passion, fated kiss

On a cheek, on the lips,

in a garden,

Under a tree.



“I defy thee”

though your beauty reels me in

A siren’s sweet melody licking heart’s wound

Of sorrow simmering in torn silence

Waiting for your ancient fire, burning,

Wanting in beauty, drowning

Under a cold starlit heaven, weeping

In mass self-destruction, bleeding

Unheroic dreams, written at my own birth,

My house is crumbling,

A spinning light in a darkened universe

A failed perception of reality though I try

A burned path of old destruction though I cry

In the shadows of city lights

Old fears of broken social order

Are still fighting in the streets

like bodies falling to the ground

with rusted daggers to the heart

love is a paradox that is only tasted,

and sorrow a potion that “shall be endured”,

drunk with an eternal silence,

A lonely drop under the universe

Just a drop left

Just a drop left

For me.


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© Karen K.L.Espaniola and hinarising.com. 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Karen K.L. Espaniola and hinarising.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.