Joe Balaz

Hawaiian in Ohio
“Hawaiian in Ohio”



Da King
can really dunk wun basketball

and I tink
he’s way bettah den Jordan.

I stay contemplating dis
in my familiar tongue

as I walk on wun sidewalk
in downtown Cleveland

and spak wun huge picture of LeBron
on da side of wun building.

James ovah Michael

is da consensus debatable vibe
wen you live around heah.

Wen I stay walking dese streets
I tink of adah stuff too

like da pierogis and kielbasa
I just had foa lunch

and how dose ono grinds
wen just broke da mouth.

Ruminating in island lingo
while living and playing Rust Belt bingo

all da numbahs dat come up foa me
is different from anybody else

cause I fill all da squares
wit bumboocha kine circles

as round as da pupils in my eyes.

It comes down
to da way I view

and interpret da world.

It’s like dat classic mind exercise
dat expands your tinking—

“If a tree falls in a forest
and no one is around to hear it

does it make a sound?”

Derefore da parallel taught—

“If I stay tinking in Pidgin
ovah heah on da continent

does da language still exist?”

As long as it’s between my ears

dose familiar words and phrases
going live everywheah.

broke da mouth    An expression meaning that an eaten food is very good.
bumboocha           Very large.
ono grinds             Delicious food.
spak                        To look at; to see.




Visiting da public library
around da corner from wheah I live

is wun good opportunity
foa some strange people watching

especially if you checking out da women.

Some of dem in heah
could flatten wun Ohio State linebackah

or kick wun Marine drill sergeant around
like wun beach ball.

Wit tattoos all ovah dere bodies

dese raunchy wahines are rough and ready
to pound you into wun pulp

if you give ‘um anykine lip.

It’s wise to use extreme caution
and try to make no eye contact

in dealing wit dis ironclad bunch
of Cleveland sisterhood.

Dats easier said den done dough

cause my curiosity
is checking dem out on da sly

wit da same fascination

as if I wuz watching wun train wreck happen
right before my eyes.

It’s so captivating
dat you no can completely turn away

so now I stay stealing glances
and letting my imagination run wild.

I can see wun epic confrontation

between wun Old Brooklyn broad
and wun Nanakuli tita

charging at each adah in da ring
like two champion sumo wrestlers.

Smash of da titans
and somebody going lose.

Hard to place wun bet dough
on da one dat going win

cause dese two scary bruisers
look pretty even to me.

Nanakuli            Town in Hawaii
Old Brooklyn     Neighborhood in Cleveland
wahine                Woman




Kaliwalana no moa North Shore
but get North Coast.

No moa ocean eidah
but get wun big lake dat look like one.

In Kaliwalana

get buku kine haoles and popolos
walking around.

No can surf in Kaliwalana

but in da wintah time
you can go skiing furdah south.

In Kaliwalana

da buildings stay moa tall
den da buildings in Honolulu.

No moa canoes in Kaliwalana
but get kayaks on da Cuyahoga.

In Kaliwalana get tourists too

and dey go
to da Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

raddah den da Polynesian Cultural Center.

No moa wun active volcano
in Kaliwalana

but long time ago
da river wen catch on fire.

In Kaliwalana

Tremont, Collinwood,
and Ohio City

is way moa different

den Kapalama, Manoa,
and Waikiki.

In Kaliwalana
Old Brooklyn is wheah I stay

but I no can walk to da beach
like I did wen I wuz in Kailua.

Living in Kaliwalana
heah on da continent

my feet stay planted now
but my heart still got island kine wings.




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.