Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Flashflood

[Editors' note: This is the third in a three-part series about the recent rains and dam break on Kauai.]

by Pam Woolway


Fifty foot wave
Lids tangled trees with rooftops;
Avalanche of mud, wood & bone
Swarms down Wailapa Stream,
Hacking, a crevice into a canyon
Forests of trees snap free,
Lighting the sky with invisible fireworks, loping
Over asphalt and earth
Offering mud, wood & bone;
Delivered to the sea.


We wake her at 4 am from her slumber,
in the cottage by Wailapa Stream.
Imagine a locomotive snarling
Down on her house.

We tell her to get in the car. Drive
away from this valley.
We replay the fifty-foot wave;
teeth of Ironwood, chewing
house parts to splinters with red mud saliva.

The moment in reverse,
We call to her,
“Get out, the reservoir is about to breach!”
She wakes the man beside her.

They glide through a dark hall,
the unmade bed,
sheets kicked to the bottom edge,
the front door left ajar.

The Search

—Garden Island Newspaper, Hawaii, March 23, 2006

by Pam Woolway


misting rain clouded mountaintop,
a grim tableau, helicopter
slowly flies

circles dam, thoughts
and flowers
e a r t h w a r d.


Search continued Tuesday:
Four Kauaians
Seven days after a flash flood

Two homes away in Kilauea.

efforts ended at dark


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Phear on Kauai

[Editor's note: This is the first of a three-part post on the recent rains and dam break on Kauai.]

by Gae Rusk
copyright 2006

I was already afraid of almost everything. Flying, eating, running, sleeping. Tsunamis, earthquakes, tornados, global warming. Snakes, centipedes, bears, sharks. Bullies, terrorists, street racers, CEOs.

See? I was already afraid of almost everything, and now I add Phear of Reservoirs to my list of phobias.

Still, I am an intelligent citizen. I know the reservoirs on Kauai are living treasures. They are cups of life spilling one unto the next all the way to the sea cliffs, nurturing the island’s farmers along the way. Because I am informed, I know that plowing under a reservoir would be a form of murder. It would be the killing of water, and thus the end of us, which means death by water is not always a drowning.

Four days after the March 14 disaster and while it was still raining, Kilauea farmers gathered with County, State and Federal officials and spoke out to save Ka Loko Reservoir. These farmers pointed out that taking away ag water by destroying even one reservoir would be a form of farmicide. They explained that the reservoir system is the only alternative for agricultural water when rains stop and seasonal drought arrives. Even if farmers could hook up to County water, an action that would require endless subsidies to pay for the millions of gallons required – even if farmers could do that, County water is chlorinated and fluorinated and mixed with other chemicals. Not only would using County water break the bank, the resulting produce would no longer be organic. Even if farmers could pump well water twenty four-seven to irrigate fields and orchards, at today’s fuel prices what farmer could afford that? Besides, if the loop of rainfall, reservoir and gravity is interrupted, pumping well water for half of every year will suck the aquifers dry in no time flat.

Yep. Death by water? Not always a drowning.

So please, Makers of Decisions, remember: the reservoirs, the ditches, the streams, the level of our water table – all are connected in one logical, holistic system that filters and cycles and replenishes the whole. Destroying one part will destroy the system, thus sabotaging Kauai’s ability to sustain itself.

If, against all advice from the truly informed, Ka Loko Reservoir is destroyed, or any of the reservoirs on Kauai are abandoned and flattened, I phear the makers of that decision will need to start another list, a very long one, for all the future victims of this disaster.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Definition

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary
Main Entry: rigorous
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Medieval Latin rigorosus, from Latin rigor + -osus -ous

a : manifesting, exercising, or favoring rigor : allowing no abatement or mitigation : inflexibly strict : INEXORABLE [liquor smuggling…has been another problem…to vex governments seeking to maintain a rigorous policy of liquor control, D.W.McConnell] b : extremely or excessively strict : HARSH, STERN [a rigorous academy where the girls wore uniforms, were forbidden to correspond with male contemporaries…and were not given diplomas until they passed college entrance examinations, Robert Rice] [juries are now rigorous, now indulgent, F.A.Ogg & Harold Zink]

2 : marked by extremes of temperature or climate, barrenness of comforts or necessities, or other strenuous challenging obstacles [ life was rigorous, conditions primitive, American Guide Series: Texas] [a combination of high altitudes, rigorous climate, poor drainage and thin soils giving rise to poor land, G.P.Wibberley]

3 : scrupulously accurate : EXACT, PRECISE [the reader, missing…poets whom he expected to find, may complain that my criterion of significance is too rigorous, F.R.Leavis]

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

The Backstory

In the tradition of literary journals and salons everywhere, supports good writing and healthy discussions. All submissions are reviewed by a three-person editorial board made up of Kim Steutermann Rogers, Gae Rusk and Lois Ann Ell. We value the expression of all voices and delight in words (and images) that shift thinking and open minds threading us ever closer together in this calabash of a world in which we live. wishes to honor the circle of fearless writers from the 2006 Hanalei Writers Retreat for spinning the thoughts and stringing the images that wove into shape. Great gratitude also goes to the brave Terry Tempest Williams who also reveres language and landscape and who introduced us to rigor and inspired us with these words, “To be a powerful writer is to be a human being engaged in the world.”

And, so, this is how we engage.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


If you would like to submit to Kauai Backstory, copy your submission into the body of an email and send it to There is no word limit—brevity is good; however, quality is better. Please acknowledge if the writing has been previously published and where/when. All submissions will be read by a three-person editorial board, although not all submissions will be posted.