BooksMarch 4, 2024

A Poem for Fa’anānā Efeso Collins: Beyond the Reef


Poet Karlo Mila last week recited the following poem at the funeral of Fa’anānā Efeso Collins who died tragically on February 21.

A Poem for Fa’anānā Efeso Collins: Beyond the Reef

Son of the Southside,

Infant of Ōtara,

there will be churches heaving with hymns,

despair in the corner dairies,

tears in the eyes of teachers,

disappointed blessings in the mouths of preachers,

school children singing laments,

community boards crying,

I hear the haka of Tangaroa College

a stampede stamping with anger and pride,

teenagers looking up from their devices, learning your name for the first time,

a whole community reeling,

united in a singular feeling:



Tuakana of the Pasifika Community:

Every Facebook friend has a selfie with you, because you were not a selfie,

you were community, collective,

in the village of the migrant dream.

Presidential among your peers,

the next wave…

And among


upward mobility,

you pulled

with all your might,

the ones we might

leave behind.


Reading the pedagogy of the liberated,

leading a dreaming fono.


Mentoring many:

connecting us, repping us,

collectivity in your bones,

justice in your stride.

By us, with us, for us.

Without compromise.


Pakeke of Parliament,

you deserved to stand upright there,

voice of the voiceless,

heralding the hushed

into hallowed halls.


You dared to Maya Angelou “rise”.


Taking that Moana Jackson deep breath,

before you exercised

so many acts of courage.


You reached beyond the boundaries

that racism set for us.


You swam beyond the safe,

blessing the sharks

that circled around you,

death threats, race bait,

white supremacist hate.


For us,

it is a dangerous democracy,

but still you pursued that perilous pathway to power,

facing powerful


racist resistance,

old-boys clubs-clubbing,

the back-stab of our own machetes,

a hair’s breadth away.

too close for comfort.


A heart would break,

to walk up that steep city street

so distressed

with stress.

A heart would break.


And yet you found the channel

that would take you past the the reef,

where others fear to go,

you found flow.


With your beloveds,

braved the waves,

entered the open sea,

in which we find ourselves free,


where we remember the ocean in us,

ancient mariners, expert navigators,

sailing our salty pathways to each other,

expansive as the largest body of water in the world.


I wish for our children

to meet each other there,

and never know,

how small they wanted us to be.


All of us called to be more,

voyage further,




in your wake.


Son of Sāmoa,

Child of Aotearoa,

there will be a karanga called

in exuberant welcome –

an unwavering voice


to calling

those who’ve passed, to the other side,

past the Pōhutukawa,

from the jumping off place

across ancient ocean roads,

the journey to Pulotu,



entering the multidimensional lagi

where your people

sing with fragrant flowers and festive lei, celebrating.


Man of faith,

a true servant of Christ,

devout Christian,

a soul of salvation,

returning home.




You become




we always knew

you were.

Keep going!