“Prayer for Mr. Armand Palakiko” by Robert Lynn

Robert Lynn


Not long after dawn on Thanksgiving 2011 at the
Honolulu International Airport
where it is summer pretty much all of the time,
Mr. Armand Palakiko,
a man whose only job it was to do the futile

work of running stray birds away from runways,
arrived to find a snowy owl
perched on a sign on Runway 8L, a white apparition
out of place from the tundra, 
an envoy sent from another time or maybe

just lost. And Mr. Armand Palakiko knew all
birds larger than a fist can
bring down an airplane, and so partly for its
own good and mostly for
the airport’s, Mr. Armand Palakiko set about charging

the owl with his white Dodge Ram pickup truck
and bombarding it with
firecrackers and nets and couldn’t help but feel
silly while chasing around
an arctic bird here in the tropics with firecrackers

and nets but feeling silly while scaring the shit,
white shit, out of birds is
so much of the holy work of protecting the
machines of flight and
those of us inside those humming metal wombs,

and there are only so many options, especially
on the morning of
Thanksgiving nestled between the busiest flying
days of the year, and
having never seen one of these creatures before

because this was the first in the whole history
of Hawaii, after having
spent the better part of a shift battling a bird
braver than fireworks
that crossed the Pacific Ocean a thousand—no—

a million miles from home and who stayed by
some magic specifically
just out of reach of all things, all things except
the shotgun loaded with
birdshot, which Mr. Armand Palakiko kept on the seat

of his truck, and what happened next was printed
in the New York Times.
What happened next was that the bird and Mr.
Armand Palakiko sat down
together around a makeshift table in the bed of

the white Dodge Ram pickup truck by the runway
overlooking Pearl Harbor
where we swore we would never again be caught
off guard by a flying visitor
from far away so Mr. Armand Palakiko said aloha, which

can mean hello and goodbye at the same time, and
they shared a meal of
Polynesian rats and pumpkin pie, and then the owl
perched on the shoulder
of Mr. Armand Palakiko and whispered the jokes that his

great granddaddy Palakiko used to tell that Mr. Armand
Palakiko only part way
knew from his father’s garbled misrememberings,
and what happened
next was the giving of thanks for the broken-down

joy of sharing something so remarkable, so straight
out of time, and right
now somewhere up in heaven great granddaddy
Palakiko has the sole job
of keeping god’s runways clear of runaway souls,

but that is not what it said in the New York Times
when it said what
happened next because what happened next
was that he shot it.
The first one ever in the whole state, and he shot it.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021


Robert Lynn: “I’m so fond of writing poems as a means of the dearest and most intimate communication with an impossible-to-imagine reader. A stranger, a friend, my future self, my parents hot with embarrassment, or people not yet born but who will one day stumble over letters until they become thoughts.” (web)

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