Heritage Song

We Koreans converge on Hawai‘i Theatre tonight,
all bows and the scent of garlic-laced dinners,
lots of quick head nods and Annyeong Haseyos,
English and Korean translators working overtime.

It’s a party here for all of us as we commemorate
the departure 120 years ago today of the first Koreans
to settle a month later in Hawai‘i, my father’s parents
following not far behind this initial group of travelers.

Once the politicos from both sides of the ocean have spoken,
the members of the Incheon Metropolitan City Dance Theater
proceed with the night’s entertainment, a dazzling series
of dances old and new performed with a distinctively modern feel.

Incheon, the place from where those first voyagers sailed,
and Honolulu became official sister cities in 2003,
but their familial bond was forged on December 22, 1903
when those first souls chose to take their chances here.

Some of the music has words, but most of it is instrumental,
and that language of notes and beat is one I can speak.
The colors dazzle me, and in the spinning and leaping
I lose myself in time and remembrance of things past.

Near the end, I close my eyes and picture my father on my right,
and on my left I can see my grandmother and grandfather.
All three are enjoying this cultural celebration immensely,
and at the climax of the final number, we join hands
in a hymn of thanks for everything across distance and time.

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