Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Awa Song

Awa Song

Clifford Gessler

We have dug the bitter roots in the high valley,
we have bruised them to bring the juice, in the wooden bowl.
It is pleasant here in the shelter of woven branches,
on the soft mats, with wreaths about our shoulders.
Soon the men will open the earth ovens;
they will bring to us the baked pig and the taro,
the sweet potatoes, the fish steamed in leaves;
already the poi waits in the deep bowls.
Pray now to the ancestral spirits,

pray to the gods of the expansive heavens,
pray to the gods of the land and of the sea:
Let there be life to us in this food, this drinking!

Dip the strands of bark in the bitter water,
wring, and shake it, and wring it and shake again,
offering left and right, offering above and downward,
chanting a song to the honor of gods and men.

E! Pass the bowl!
Fill the deep bowls, the fat big-bellied ipu;
let the small, meager bowls be cast aside.
Pass the bowl to the great chiefs and the lesser.
Let us be merry here with the feast and dancing.
So we meet and rejoice in friendship together,
glad with the drink, glad with the fun and feasting,
glad with the awa, and sleep that follows after

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 9, No. 4 (Fall 1935), p. 281


Clifford Gessler (1893-?) was an American journalist, poet, and travel writer. He wrote travel books about Hawaii, Polynesia, and Mexico, and his poems were published in many journals.