Joe Balaz


Chameleon Laugh

“Wun guy walks into wun bar
and asks wun person standing nearby,

Why does my nose hurt so much?

Da gym instructor tells ‘um,

Next time duck down moa low.”


Issac dunno know
if dat joke wuz evah told before

cause he made it up

just like da adah one
he wen share yesterday.


“Talk about bad timing—

dere’s nutting worse
den choking on wun piece of aku poke

while playing wun game of charades.”


He tinks he’s wun comedian

wun messenger
of da chameleon laugh

dat makes fun
of da human condition.


Hard to know
if his taughts are original.

It seems highly possible

dat somebody somewheah
must have said ‘um before.


Den again

Issac did seem
to have wun sharp wit

so maybe dere’s someting
to his authorship.


He wen demonstrate dat
wen we wuz playing chess

on wun outside tabletop
at Ala Moana Beach Park.


Wun passing tourist

wit wun tinge of smugness
in his voice

wen abruptly ask us
in front of his girlfriend—

“Do you people
still live in grass shacks?”


Witout hesitation Issac wen say,

“Do you still live in wun log cabin?”


Da guy seemed to be kinnah startled

and den he wen slink away wit his partner
while giving wun slight stink eye

as if his put down intention
wuz exposed.


Issac nevah care
about da reaction.

He wen just chuckle
and forcefully say,

“Checkmate, brah,
and wun big aloha to you too.”


Den he wen smile
and look at me

as if he wuz on stage
wit wun microphone.


I wen just shake my head
and laugh

and den I wen tell him,

“Brah, now dat wuz funny.”



I Dunno If You Wen Notice*

I dunno if you wen notice

but Marvin's cousin
no shave her armpits--

It's like talking to Chewbacca

Too bad.

cause she got wun good figure
and her face is kinnah cute

if you can get past 
her hairy arms and legs.

Eh, everybody got dere quirks
physical and mental.

Looks like she wuz given
wun extra helping dough

of adah things dat show up
wit further observation.

Foa instance

da way she eat
wuz wun trip in itself.

Aftah I first met her 
at Marvin's house

wen she wen pop in
foa drop someting off

I wen invite her
to go get plate lunch wit me.

We went to da drive-in
around da corner

and I wen order us some stuff.

I only took couple of bites
from my chicken katsu

and she wen already scarf down
her whole plate of kalbi

inhaling all da food
like wun freaking vacuum cleaner.

Wen she saw da reaction
in my raised eyebrows

she wen explain

dat she grew up wit five oldah braddahs
and dat she had to learn to eat fast.

As she continued talking

I saw dat she wuz really aggressive
wit wun toothpick to clean her teeth

not to mention latah

dat she wuz also
unconsciously playing

wit da long strands of hair
on her left forearm too.


I wuz tinking
of initially trying to get her in bed

I not going lie.

But now
I having wun second taught

wit all of dese red flags
flapping in da breeze.

Da male sex drive
is wun powerful ting

but it looks like reason
just flew back into da window.




aku poke:  a raw fish salad made with yellowfin tuna.

aloha:  a word that means both hello and good-bye.

chicken katsu: Japanese style fried chicken.

kalbi: barbecued Korean style beef short ribs.

plate lunch: a kind of meal that originated in Hawaii.

stink eye:  a disapproving look.







Joe Balaz writes in Hawaiian Islands Pidgin (Hawai’i Creole English) and in American English. He edited Ho’omanoa: An Anthology of Contemporary Hawaiian Literature. Some of his recent Pidgin writing has appeared in Heavy Feather Review, Public Pool, The Rising Phoenix Review, and Yellow Mama, among others. Balaz is an avid supporter of Hawaiian Islands Pidgin writing in the expanding context of World Literature. He presently lives in Cleveland, Ohio.