They had named the battleships for states:
They called them “she”
as if they were women
(gray metal women),
and they were all there that morning
in what they called Battleship Row.
(the places of the gray metal women)
were called berths.
Arizona was at berth F-7.
On either side, her nurturing sisters:
The sisters, wounded, survived.
But Arizona, her massive body sheared,
slipped down. She disappeared.
It was an island of rainbows.
My mother said that color arced across the sky
on the spring day when I was born.
On the island of rainbows,
my bare feet slipping in sand,
I learned to walk.
And to talk:
My Hawaiian nursemaid
taught me her words, with their soft vowels:
the name of a little fish!
It made me laugh, to say it.
We laughed together.
Ānuenue meant “rainbow.”
Were there rainbows that morning?
I suppose there must have been:
bright colors, as the planes came in.
My grandmother visited.
She had come by train across the broad land
from her home in Wisconsin, and then by ship.
We met her and heaped wreaths
of plumeria around her neck.
“Aloha,” we said to her.
I called her Nonny.
She took me down by the ocean.
The sea moved in a blue-green rhythm, soft against the sand.
We played there, she and I, with a small shovel,
and laughed when the breeze caught my bonnet
and lifted it from my blond hair.
We played and giggled: calm, serene.
And there behind us—slow, unseen—
Arizona, great gray tomb,
moved, majestic, toward her doom.
She Was There
We never saw the ship.
But she was there.
She was moving slowly
on the horizon, shrouded in the mist
that separated skies from seas
while we laughed, unknowing, in the breeze.
She carried more than
twelve hundred men
on deck, or working down below.
We didn’t look up. We didn’t know.