Return to the Islands

3 Penny Papers

Retired IUP English professor Rosaly Roffman traveled to Hawaii in December for a poetry reading and presentation. Her topic was Threepenny Papers, a broadside poetry magazine she helped produce more than forty years ago, when, as Rosaly DeMaios, she was a graduate student at the University of Hawaii.

The first independent poetry magazine in the Islands, the publication was set by hand and printed on a press reputedly bequeathed to the university by Herman Melville. Roffman took with her in December a complete set of the periodical for the university’s archives and read Hawaiian series selections from her book Going to Bed Whole. One of the poems, reprinted here, is about a restaurant owner and recalls Hawaii in the very early sixties.

I would run anyway to ANTONIOS in Kailua
where there weren’t supposed to be restaurants
where they make cornucopia sushi out of eggs
too big for delicate mouths in Honolulu.

Then, Antonio’s wife with braids in her hair
would send me home with offerings of lobsters,
because she knew her no-fool-like-an-old-fool
had fallen in love, and all of Rommel’s campaigns
had not prepared him to drop from the skies
like one of his delicate fish onto a plate.

Still, I never knew Antonio wept in his restaurant
—or who else he taught to drink strega, elegantly,
under “dakine” sun which always stayed Milanese,
on this windward side of the island just like him.