Ghosts Next Door

Ghosts Next Door
by Lopaka Kapanui

Jul 31, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #92

It went quiet suddenly; I remember that—the kind of quiet when no one is home, and you're by yourself. I mean the kind of stillness where the ambient sound of traffic from the freeway near my house is gone.

Jul 30, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #93

The Chief Kapapala went to the edge of the Kīlauea crater and found a group of beautiful women. Pele welcomed him, and they delighted in each other for several days.

Jul 29, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #94

Wakea, the sky father, married Ho’ohokukalani, the goddess of the stars. Together they sired a child which at his birth they named “Haloa” Alas, he was born deformed as a mass of flesh, Brokenhearted, Wakea and Ho’ohokukalani buried their child in the eastern side of their hale pili, the place from which the sun would rise without fail. A short time after that, a single plant grew from that solemn grave, and there hence came the first taro plant. The second child to be born of the godly couple was a human child who was also a boy. They named him, “Haloanakalaukapalili” (Haloa the quivering leaf ) in other accounts the plant which springs from the grave is given the name as mentioned earlier first.

Thus the second Haloa became the caretaker or steward of the first, his older brother. So it has been since time immemorial that we the Hawaiian people are the descendants of this most beautiful deity who has continually provided us with physical and spiritual sustenance.

The process of planting and harvesting Kalo is arduous and often difficult for the uninitiated, but the work itself can be very therapeutic for the mind and body. The mud in a lo’i kalo contains many healthy minerals, and the taro plant itself is significant in that it symbolizes aspects of the family or ‘ohana which are found in the ‘oha or corm of the taro. Different parts of the plant were used for food and medicinal purposes. Still, it was the steaming of the taro and the application of pounding it into a form where it first became pa’i ai and then later textured into poi that the pure finesse took place. The papa ku’i ‘ai or the poi pounding board is where the taro would be placed and almost endlessly pounded by a pohaku ku’i ai or poi pounder. The pohaku ku’i ai was expertly fashioned from a porous stone where it would eventually take on an almost pear-like shape where the bottom half of it was the more full and heavy end. The upper portion was a bit thinner, and it left the user with a proper way to grip the tool. With a bowl of water beside him, the kanaka ku’i ai wet the substance now and again to prevent it from becoming sticky. The beginner will choke the tool with a tense grip and tire himself out quickly, but the experienced workman will relax his hold and let the weight of the pohaku ku’i ai do its work as it was meant to. It rolls effortlessly forward to smooth out the steamed corm so that it can take its shape and fulfill its responsibility or kuleana.


My hānai father held his pohaku ku’i ai with a grip that was so tense that he could only afford the steamed taro less than a few strikes before finally reaching exhaustion. His hands would fall to his side, and he would be utterly defeated. The second he stood up and left, my hanai mother would take his place and continue where he would leave off, all the while softly chastising and scolding the still undeveloped corm but smoothly spreading out its texture until it could serve its purpose. If my hanai father ever struck the taro out of anger or rage, my hanai mother would take the tool from him and block the papa ku’i ai so that he could do no further damage to the process. Sometimes, she would suffer the pounding in place of the taro. At some point when she passed away, the ku’ai was left on its own to become whatever it could become with the hopes that one day it would fill a wooden bowl where it finally became poi and was able to provide sustenance for its own family.

Many years hence, I struggle with the same tense grip with which I hold my pohaku ku’i ai, I can feel that I am choking it rather than letting it relax in my hand. I feel its weight, but is it really the weight of the tool, or is it the weight that I’ve put upon it? As a result, I’ve forgotten my finesse, my technique. The kalo I try to shape and spread out so that it too can serve its purpose frustrates and angers me because it is very much textured like myself, but I don’t pound it, I don’t strike it because it IS me. I’ve hit and struck myself more than I care to remember, why would I do it to someone who is yet to be made whole?

Logically, he would be called, “Hānai” but we share the same hale, we feed him, we help clothe him, we worry with him, and because of him, we laugh with him and so on. He is my son, my Haloa now as I once was. We have to remind and assure him that like the taro plant, every part of himself is useful and serves a purpose, we sometimes have to remind ourselves of that fact also when we become frustrated. We smooth his rough edges out so that one day he will be able to fill the bowl that will provide for his own ‘ohana. Some days I wish for the haste that would fill his bowl with light, but as is the process of Kanu and huki, so too is the process from ku’ai to poi.


I saw him this evening at the dinner table, my hānai father. He appeared long enough that I could see the smile in his eyes. He pointed to the bowl of poi on the table, and with his two fingers, he made a curved sweeping motion as if to remind me to clean out the inside of the bowl. His own personal philosophy was that as we do in life, we do after we are done eating poi. We clean up what we might have left behind, we never leave a mess. In turn, the gods care for us. We care for Hāloa, we care for his home, and we bring him to fruition. He repays us by feeding us and healing us through his lepo and his kalo.

Although his mouth isnʻt moving, the twinkle in his pale eyes tells me that he knows I understand. Slowly, his form diminishes into nothing becoming as one with the unseen atoms which race around us. Perhaps if I do my own due diligence, I wonʻt have to wait until I am a ghost before my son sees the same look in my eyes.

All this from the ‘anana and the wali of the poi this evening, how wonderful are our ancestors?

Jul 28, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #95

After the death of his father Pi'ilani, Kiha had grown tired of the mistreatment he suffered at the hands of his older brother Lono.

Jul 27, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #96

I was part of a cast of characters that performed in a traveling show around the islands. It was a four-year stint that paid a thousand dollars a week.

Jul 26, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #97

I remember our neighbor Fuji; he was a fisherman by trade; he was a bull of a man. His arms were so big that he would give us all a dollar if we could fit our fingers inside his shirt sleeve. Fuji never lost a dollar.

Jul 25, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #98

This story was told to us one evening in our Karate class. Our sensei felt a bit under the weather, so one of his black belts came to teach the lesson. The black belt had an unusual last name like Choriki or something. He was sporting a black eye and a cut on his lip.

Jul 24, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #99

I had no reason to kill Alec Kapili. We were acquaintances at best, but we were never going to bake a cake together. Whoever killed him must have had a stake in his demise because it wasn't a clean bullet to the head or a knife in the heart that did him in.

Jul 23, 2020

100 Ghost Stories Counting Down To Halloween 2020 #100

People wonʻt come up to the fence to ask if they are allowed to pick mangoes. They wait until the fruits fall from the tree. If it lands on the tuft of grass on the sidewalk, they leave it alone.

Jul 10, 2020



The evening street festival in Kobe would be the last she would ever see of her homeland; therefore, she took every advantage she could of the festivities, food, and dance.

Jul 9, 2020

Magic At The Edge of A Forest

I first heard the music on a day like today. The branches of the old trees outside my window mirrored the ebb and flow of the ocean as the wind moved it gently to and fro.

Jul 2, 2020

For Whom The Red Rag Waits

There was a crazy woman who lived somewhere in our Kaimuki neighborhood. I could never tell if her ethnicity was Hawaiian, Asian, or Filipino. For a month, she walked by my yard with her white labrador in tow and stopped long enough to tie a red shammy cloth around the fence.