Joe Balaz

Five Hawaiian Islands Pidgin Poems


I could have been Catholic
but I wound up
Seventh Day Adventist instead

until I had da choice
to be watevah I wanted to be.

It’s all because of wun priest
and dose two nuns
dat came walking down da street

in da family history story
dat wuz told to me.

It wuz old fashion kine times
not like it is today.

My faddah wuz wun sergeant
in da U.S. Army.

He met my maddah
and dey got wun house in Wahiawa—

Dey wasn’t married at da time.

Da priest found out.
He paid my faddah wun visit.

He walked up da stairs
looked inside da window

and shouted into da house:

“You are living in sin,
and you are going to Hell!”

My faddah came to da door
and den he answered:

“I'm not going to Hell, Father,
but you are going down these stairs!”

Grabbed by da back
of his white collar

da priest
went tumbling down da steps

in front of da two stunned nuns.

My faddah left da Catholic church.

Latah, wun bishop in Honolulu
said dat da priest
had no right to do wat he did

but it wuz too late—
my faddah wuz already wun Protestant.

Dats why
by da time I came along

I had to observe da Sabbath
from Friday evening to Saturday night

and I couldn’t go play outside
or watch television.

Bible school every Saturday morning
and church service afterwards

wit all da stuffy elders shaking my hand
wen I left to go home.

Thank God
wen I reached fourteen

my faddah gave me da choice
if I wanted to go to church or not.

He must have mellowed out
wen he got oldah.

If it wasn’t foa dat priest
pushing his weight around

I could have been Catholic.

“Hail Mary
full of grace”

I would have been praying
at da altar.

Most likely dough

even da faith of da Rosary
wouldn’t have made wun difference—

I tink I still would have bolted
wen I had da chance.


“It’s kinnah funny
to see wun Portagee in wun Volvo—

honk da horn
and it sounds
like wun grandmaddah goose.”

Kenrock Medeiros
made up dat lame joke in his head

driving on da freeway to da airport.

“Vovo— Tutu— You get it?”
he asked wun imaginary audience.

Shaking his head
he laughed at his stale humor
and said to himself

“Aaah, nevahmind...”

He wuz in wun good mood
and acting silly
cause he wuz on his way to Portugal.

Kenrock went to St. Louis High School
and den to Villanova.

He latah became wun fast track CEO
in da financial world
and made buku kine bucks.

Wun Portagee joke he is not

and if you taught
only Pakes wuz good wit money

take wun good look
at Kenrock Medeiros.

His wife wen leave earlier
and she wuz already in Lisbon

waiting foa him to arrive—

Dey wuz going check out
da Madeira Islands

wheah dere relatives
and malasadas came from.

Wen Kenrock boarded da plane

he sat down in his seat
and looked down da aisle
towards da pilot in da cockpit—

He taught of anadah lame joke:

“How many Portagees does it take
to fly wun airplane?


Wen you can easily pay
adah people to do it.”

Kenrock Medeiros
stretched out his legs in first class

and headed to his vacation

screwing in wun light bulb
in his head by himself

while smiling and illuminating
his big, bright world.


Jesus gets moa converts
and Buddha gets moa gongs

while da universe is spinning
and da angels sing dere songs

so wat you going do manju
wen da buggah comes aftah you?

Dat ageless figure behind your back
is wun heartless reaper, brah—

Look how he tears up dat calendar
and trows it into da air like confetti.

Some people freak out
and some people go insane

to see wun cloud of shredded days
falling inside dere brain—

It’s wun big deal to know
dat your time is almost ovah.

So wat you going do manju
wen da buggah comes aftah you?

You no can run
you no can slide

you no can dodge da ending
on dis one way ride—

might as well laugh
in his skeleton face.

Dat black robe and scythe
not going baddah me

wen my mind turns off like wun TV.

So wat you going do manju
wen da buggah comes aftah you?


Elvis came out of da bushes
on da walking trail

in full regalia
in his dazzling white jumpsuit.

He asked me foa wun light
but I told him I no smoke

so he took off his dark glasses
and he looked me in da eye.

I saw pinwheels and sparks
and heard funny kine noise

and all da birds, and da clouds,
and da trail wen disappear.

Next ting I knew
I wuz in da HIC

in wun good seat
looking at da stage

watching Aloha from Hawaii

beaming on wun satellite
to da rest of da world—

In da early 70s
dat Presley concert wuz wun big event.

Da music wuz entertaining
da show wuz choreographed
and da program wuz wun hit—

but den I wen hear wun loud thud.

I found myself
on da walking trail again

looking down at wun coconut
right in front of me

dat just fell from wun tree.

Strange kine taughts
wuz going through my head—

Maybe I get sunstroke
cause I no smoke pakalolo.

Just den da coconut on da ground
wen split open

and out jumped Elvis!

He wuz only da size
of wun mongoose now

but he smiled
and ran back into da bushes.

Lucky foa him
no moa any dogs around

cause dey could have bit off his head.

Even foa me
dis trail not dat safe—

dats wat dey tell me anyway
wen I can remembah.

Elvis is wun nice guy dough
if you get to know him—

wen he came back to regular size
we wen talk story little while

and he told me he likes it in Maunawili
bettah den Graceland.

Sometimes wen I look at his face
he get wun aura around him

and my head get all fuzzy
like I got wun migraine.

I don't know it right now
but my family stay looking foa me—

I wen walk outtah da house
wen my granddaughter wuz doing laundry.

Dey told da cops I had Alzheimer’s.

Everyting is cool dough
and I not going worry

cause da King of Rock ‘n’ Roll
wen just sing one of my favorite songs

dat wuz written by Kui Lee—

“I’ll Remember You.”

I tink he wen sing dat song
at da HIC concert too

but now I kinnah forget.

Hard to know sometimes
wen you walk by yourself

wen your hair stay all gray
and you wondah wheah you stay—

Good ting I get Elvis
foa keep me company.


Mango Sakamoto
wuz wun strange dude—

Da buggah
would hide in da bushes

and shoot at small animals
wit wun pellet gun.

He made Whitmore Village famous—

It had moa dead cats per acre
den any adah town on da island.

I would see him
everyday wen I came home from school

sitting on his parents porch
eating green mango and shoyu—

Dats how he got his nickname.

He wuz wun spooky kine guy
wen he gave you da "eye."

Good ting
dey took dat stolen pellet gun
away from him.

Mango Sakamoto
wuz da same age as my oldah braddah
who just joined da Air Force

but he had wun baby kine mind.

He really liked Kikaida

dat red and blue android
from da Japanee program
dat ran on local TV.

He would pretend
dat he wuz dat sci-fi character

and he would jump and shout
and run around on da porch

like he wuz fighting monsters
or demons from da dark side.

Wen I wuz wun small kid
Mango wuz scary.

I wuz always afraid
dat he wuz going do someting bad to me.

Da buggah wuz mental

but you not supposed to say
stuff like dat.

I remembah da day
wen I came home from school

and saw all da cops standing around
wun ambulance down da street.

Dey had just brought up
wun dead body

from Kaukonahua Stream
down in da gulch.

Da investigators wen speculate
dat da person wen drown

aftah he wen wrap his own ankles
and wrists wit twine

and jumped
into da deep watah of da stream.

Da dead body wuz wearing
wun Kikaida tee shirt.

Mango Sakamoto—
Crazy, brah.

He wen take his own life.

Just tinking about it
gave me chicken skin.

Foa da longest time

I would walk pass
dat house wit da empty porch

remembering dat nut case
and how afraid I used to be.

Dats how kids tink

wit tunnel vision
unable to see around da edges.

Mango Sakamoto—

Dere wuz probably
so much moa to his madness.

I wuz just too young
and unsympathetic

to even see it.


Aloha from Hawaii




chicken skin


I'll Remember You








talk story



A concert by Elvis Presley that was broadcast live via satellite to a worldwide audience in 1973.

Bro; brother.

A person, especially a male; the word can also refer to an animal or thing.

Large amount.

The bumps on your skin when you get a scary feeling; being afraid.

Honolulu International Center. It is presently known as the Neal S. Blaisdell Center.

A song written by a composer from Hawai'i named Kui Lee. The song was recorded and performed by Elvis Presley.


A donut without a hole that is deep-fried and rolled in sugar. It was introduced to Hawai’i by the Portuguese.

A Japanese confection made of floor, rice powder and buckwheat with a filling of red bean paste. “Wat you going do manju?” is a Pidgin expression for “What are you going to do now?”




Soy sauce.

Talking with friends or family.

Grandmother; elder woman.

Grandmother in Portuguese.

Joe Balaz is a well known writer of Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai’i Creole English). He also writes in American-English and creates visual concrete poetry and composes music-poetry.

Some of his Pidgin works such as “Junior Like Be Wun Rastah,” “Pidlit 101,” “Da History of Pigeon,” and “Da Mainland to Me” are viewed and studied as classics in the genre. Balaz also recorded Electric Laulau (1998), an innovative and groundbreaking cd of his Pidgin literature set to music.
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