Why I Wear Hawaiian Shirts, by John Homan

I’ve seen those looks…
people wondering why I wear bright flowered shirts,
gaudy thin fabric even in the middle of winter.

My Midwestern friends cling to polo shirts & football jerseys
whilst side glancing at my extravagance.
Let me explain.

I wear Hawaiian shirts because I’m not from here,
born in Loma Linda, California,
growing up in Bend, Oregon
a seventeenth year spent in Vista California.

When I hear the lame jokes about fruits & nuts
coming from the West Coast,
my flowered shirt reminds me they are wrong,
the people I left behind were strong & warm
like those dry Santa Ana Winds.

I wear Hawaiian shirts
because at three hundred & fifty pounds
I am not a small canvas.

I will not paint an expanse this spacious
with bland colored plaid shirts,
the fashion equivalent of a mass produced print,
sold at Target with no other purpose
than to pull the room together,

tones of tan, navy, & maroon,
business casual art that matches the cheap couch
bought at the furniture outlet.

Hawaiian shirts because they are the official uniform of the
International order of Big Galoots,
flowered shirts a secret signal identifying us as the good guys.

We’re not illuminati,
we’re not out to rule the world,
we’re here to spread peace, love & barbecue.

We prefer bowling, fishing off the bridge & playing bongos to
abusing question & answer time at city council meetings or
writing passionate letters to the editor about drainage issues.

We are agents of whimsy fighting
un-enlightened human resource policies
protecting the soul from the profit seekers.

I wear Hawaiian shirts because I have no fear of bright colors
refusing to labor under the belief that flowery is not masculine
while in the animal world the male is often defined by bold plumage
attracting females in the mood for love.

I wear Hawaiian shirts because in 2007 my cousin Big John,
put a forty-five caliber pistol in his mouth,
pulled the trigger & ended his life.

He was not simply a cousin – he was my brother.
Wearing Hawaiian shirts all year round,
there was no one cooler,
but life was too much for him.

When I wear Hawaiian shirts
John lives on,
his influence living on through me.

The darkness of this overly serious place,
dank & moronic,
is dealt a blow with each hot pink flamingo on my shirt,
every white orchid,
every verdant leaf,
every tiny hula girl,
speaks for a better world.

When I put on a Hawaiian shirt he is there

the man who gave me my first drink
Christmas eggnog slid my way on the sly
while my Pentecostal parents were in the same room,

the spirit of the man who took me to
underground drag races in the Eastern Oregon Desert
who would have paid my bail no matter what I did.


About John Homan

John Homan is a poet and percussionist from Bend, Oregon. He is a graduate of Indiana University. His work has appeared in the Chiron Review, Mojave Heart Review and Quatrain.fish among others. He lives in Elkhart Indiana with his wife and two cats.