Bamboo Ridge Flashback-Before Dawn: The River of Lights

In this poem that we’ve rediscovered from the old Bamboo Ridge Press website, “Before Dawn: The River of Lights” by Beryl (2003), the poet paints a vivid pre-dawn scene of Hawaii, giving us a snapshot into the past:


Before Dawn: The River of Lights
Written by Beryl on July 28, 2003

Like a river of molten lava burning down the mountainside

and flowing in bright reds and yellows across the plains,

the river of lights, the streetlamps of Manoa Valley,

glow like fiery coals strewn over the black velvet shoulder

of the mountains under the cawl of a royal midnight-blue sky.

Deep organ chords of motor engines belch out

long and solemn as great Matson steamers arrive and are gone

roaring deep bass tones from the distant bay and harbor.

Up above, pinpoints of light, the stars of the Milky Way

churn in the dark brooding sky, and faint red and white lights

on the bellies of departing or arriving planes flicker

in rising and falling trajectories over the leaden sea.

On the coast, festive, incandescent rectangles

like fairy palaces of crystal and ice

with red lights like blinking red eyes

warn off low-flying aircraft,

the skyscrapers of Waikiki with their blue-lit flying saucers

illluminate the far horizon with radiant sparks.

The city’s mighty heart is throbbing through blood,

ears, bones of men on street corners as blue light thickens

and the multiple cares of government and municipality

converge, and the day, like a Titan missile,

all white smoke and haze, is launched

to crush sleep’s cobwebs, to move men to strive

for an end to poverty, disease, and suffering,

for health and peace, justice, and inner tranquillity.

Bamboo Ridge Press is an independent non-profit, tax-exempt corporation and is supported through book sales, subscriptions, private donations, and grants from Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, Hawaiʻi Council for Humanities, and others. Your generous contributions and support are welcome and may be tax-deductible.

Monies raised help Bamboo Ridge Press continue its mission to foster the voices of our people through new publishing projects, educational programming and community outreach such as workshops for adults and youth, and free public readings. It will also help to digitize the Bamboo Ridge Press Archive, which will preserve four decades of local literature and provide free and open access to issues that are no longer in print.

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