Poetry from Sterling Warner



Southside Oahu, littered with tuff cones:

Koko Head, labia minor,

Punchbowl, the hill of sacrifice,

Diamond Head, point of the ahi fish, all

grand promontories—extinct volcanic craters.


Rules and restriction translated to challenges,

saucer-shaped Diamond Head called me;

outside the renowned Fire Control Station,

its new and aged military facilities prohibited

all access to taxpaying civilians—daring infiltration.


Sneaking into the naturally fortified crater, eluding

camouflaged guards—real or imagined adversaries—

I stealthily advance; my body clothed in red trunks and tan skin,

blend into tropical surroundings, melt, into plentiful vegetation

encircling the cavity’s inner rim, entering the military mystery maze.


The apparent sound of bullets buzz by,

pierce the dense, dank, jungle undergrowth,

expose themselves as culex quinquefasciatus brown mosquitos

vicariously breeding in stagnate water—feasting

on a liquid banquet from my exposed legs and arms.


Damp, corroded chambers cut in the cavity resemble

Alcatraz cells: steel beds hanging from rusted chains,

ascend 560 feet from the floor past bunkers where

solid concrete walkways shift to a natural tuff

severe switchbacks negotiate the interior crater’s sheer slope.


The rugged trail morphs into steep, stone stairs through a

225-foot tunnel to a fortification that one directed artillery

fire from batteries beyond; reaching its pumice plateau,

approaching a mammoth navigational lighthouse,

I scan the Oahu’s sandy shoreline from Koko Head to Wai’anae.


Historical playground for humpback whales,

oblivious the area doubles as a coastal defense vista.

tropical trade winds brush my face, activating imagination

while the capacious, comforting, cacophony

of Kanaloa’s waves crash like rhythmic pahu far below.



Bing Thieves


Campbell fertility

fruit cannery pioneer

Santa Clara gem

I long for fruitful harvests

silicon wasteland reclaimed


Ripe cherry orchards decorated the valley

like Christmas Tree ornaments, round, red,

eye popping orbs drew visitor’s attention

away from migrant farm worker camps

or miserable wooden boxes—an excuse

for a home—enjoyed by a cheerful few.


And yes, these orchards offered adventure,

growers aimed two barrels, shot rock salt

in our butts as we ran from their groves,

buckets full, bandito mystique undeniable,

dire warnings from our parents

school authorities—all elders ignored.


Best times never knew the worst yet to come

as stainless-steel chains uprooted tree trunks

tar and concrete smothered fertile fields,

and children grew up dodging street traffic

gathering in malls, frequenting cyber cafés—never

swaggering, searching, pilfering full-grown fruit…



Cracks of Light


Our empty hearts     once filled

with unflinching     alacrity,

agitated overnight     we stood

by oil radiators    metal accordions;

cast iron dragons     as discolored

as seasoned     crêpe pans

heated our     hands while we

embraced     common sense

depression;      huddled together

like snowed-in     hostages

sharing their     communal discomfort

in sweaty     submission,

our restless     blues cut through

a hauntingly     sober silence

like a machete     blade slicing

dense jungle      undergrowth

incessantly     screaming out

for social    emancipation

when      disunity and whimsy

displace     crude manners

dwarfing     responsibility:

lockdown     solidarity.



Tilt-a-Whirl Madness


Lock yourself down, hold on tight

you met the height challenge

cork shoe lifters shot you up

two inches & ruffled hair made

you appear gigantic, in control,

ready to spin like a stuntperson

make centrifugal force your own

gravitational pull your companion.


Fold brazen arms behind padded

lap bars, secure yourself & strangers

who ride sheet metal thrillers & share

danger’s safehouse; youthful mouths

missing teeth laugh & scream

like delighted children escaping

tides that grasp ankles as they

scamper from surf to dry sand.


Quartz lights flash perpetual chaos

in motion as the platform rotates,

seven swiveling cars test fortitude

resolve, & moxie, daring bold riders

like yourself to sidestep carnival sawdust

spread on the floor, eerie remains

of motion sickness for those out of sync

victimized by Tilt-a Whirl indifference.




Tipping Point Snapshot


Cars roll down the inner-city gullet

vehicle lights flashing as dawn’s early rays

part mist & unveil crosswalk shadows;


old school skyscrapers jut up towards heaven

protect flying rodents—portrait ready pigeons— 

that nest below stone-crafted window ledges—


scarlet scavenger eyes fixate on pedestrians below

looking for careless hands fingering croissants,

& street vendors dropping hot dogs & soft pretzels;           


drummers begin beating empty 5-gallon cans

under concrete bank porticos; audible rhythms echo

miles up and down Broadway, rebound off structures;


street singers & mimes soon join in the fray

destitute but happy, many homeless yet carefree,

hats & guitar cases welcome unlikely prospects


as the strip begins to buzz & people shuffle

in line for blocks awaiting Starbucks to open,

fuel & task soul-fed inspiration with caffeine;


meanwhile, escorts saunter home, recline

on their own beds—sleep uninterrupted. Restful.

Free of twilight visitations when overweight patrons


pin them with passion’s pretense allowing groans

to rise & fill voids like subway grate updrafts

decelerating wind as noisy as traffic horn banter


Manhattan minstrels, hucksters, & saints

approach tipping points, regain equilibrium,

& embrace yet another good morning’s night.