Alchemies of Distance

Caroline Sinavaiana-Gabbard was born in Utulei village, Tutuila, Samoa. Her poetry and scholarship have appeared in national and international journals, and current projects include co-editing a mixed-genre collection of indigenous writing by Pacific women. She teaches literature and writing at the University of Hawai?i at M?noa and lives in M?noa Valley. She is the mother of two, and grandmother of Gian Kaur, whose name in Punjabi means "one having knowledge of the divine."


Alchemies of Distance
by Caroline Sinavaiana-Gabbard • 2001 • [out of print]
Subpress/Tinfish/Institute of Pacific Studies
Cover design by Stuart Henley

“This collection weaves Sinavaiana-Gabbard’s many contexts and continuities into a fine tapestry … and continues a beautiful synthesis of perspectives, cultures and life struggles.”
—Konai Helu Thaman, University of the South Pacific

“Sinavaiana-Gabbard draws her imaginative strength and mana from the fertile depths of her Samoan people’s mythologies, past, and wisdom, as well as from the cultural soil of North America and Tibetan Buddhism.”
—Albert Wendt, University of Auckland

from “Alchemies of Distance”:

(for Ria & the Afro-German sisterhood)

may your sleep be blessed
with fragrance: ginger blossoms, white, gold
& pink/ in the garden where one day we will
work & play together/ where i will make a bed
of rainbow petals for your back, & a pillow
of blue cloud for your head, may your sleep
be blessed/ with the shade of mango & coconut
leaves/ where i will hold you & watch/ over your dreaming.

may your sleep be blessed/ with birds nesting in tall
trees/ their naked, spindly arms flung out/ in
wintry benediction/ over all spirits at rest on
welfenstrasse, in gesing, in heidhausen/ in
muenchen, in deutschland, in europa, where
you lie down with your brave heart this night.

may the sleep of our sisters be blessed
this night. black daughters/ in the cell block/
in the crazy house/ in the hospital/ on the sidewalk
in the rain/ in the snow/ in the dirt/ in the camp
in the barracks/ on the border/ on the road/ black
sisters/ with your sons/ with your daughters/ with
your fine beauty, the colors of earth & sun & shade/

may your sleep bring strength.
may the sleep of our sisters be blessed
this night. & their children, & their lovers
& their brothers. & their loved ones/ lost
in burning houses/ spirits leaping out
of flames/ into black nights of diamond stars
out of burning rooms where the door stuck
shut, where the window stuck shut, where
bright threads of smoke laced the eyes shut.

may their sleep be blessed/ with cool breezes/ &
streams of clear water dancing over deep forest stone.
may the sleep of our sisters be blessed
this night. warrior sisters/ armed with
broken hearts & spirit medicine/ warrior
sisters/ armed by spirit guardians riding
horses of wind/ warrior sisters/ armed
with shields of ancestor wisdom & street
wisdom/ with mother wisdom/ & baby wisdom,
with girlfriend wisdom & grandma wisdom,
with hip-hop/ be-bop/ & boogie-woogie wisdom
with/ audre lorde, billie holiday & bessie smith
wisdom/ with sojourner truth, rosa parks &
aretha franklin wisdom/ with tap-dancing,
sashaying, wide-hipped, brazen hussy wisdom/
warrior sisters/ may your sleep be blessed
on this night/ on all nights/ forever
& ever, amen.


Alchemies of Distance has been used as required reading at Cornell University and the University of Hawai?i at M?noa.

Read Craig Santos Perez’s review of Alchemies of Distance.