Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

BooksJune 5, 2020

The Friday Poem: ‘The quickest way to trap a folktale’ by Mere Taito

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

A poem by Hamilton writer Mere Taito.


The quickest way to trap a folktale

a research institution walks into a village
                    scholarly clothes
                    sharp alien tools
fine-spun birthmarks flow out of a magic twig
a wet metallic nose presses onto the thinnest
white flat bread that folds into a boat

a research institution gets to work
it asks us to open our mouths
we open
it lifts our tongues and prods
we sit very still
it pinches our uvulae with its forefinger and thumb
we do not gag
it pokes its head in and calls up to our nasal cavities
‘hello, is anyone up there?’
we do not sneeze it out of our conscience
it holds a light into our eyes
we do not blink

a research institution collects its treasures
Mafi and Lu’s marriage
annulled in a gazebo of hard covers
Raho’s canoe
chopped and chiselled to stand like an antique spine
Moeatiktiki’s congealed birth
moulded into an impractical jacket
Kirkirsasa’s armpit tattoos
transfused into an overbearing gothic title
Tinrau’s bird
taxidermised into a pretentious Preface
Puaknifo and Mostoto’s fists
bloodied in Volume IX Footnote 8
Tiaftoto’s oyster shell
shucked in a gloating Afterword

a research institution walks out of a village
                    boards its white flat bread boat
                    scholarly clothes
                    the sharpest alien tool
                    Copyright ©


‘The quickest way to trap a folktale’ originally appeared in Manifesto Aotearoa: 101 Political Poems, edited by Philip Temple and Emma Neale (Otago University Press, 2017) and was selected for Ōrongohau / Best New Zealand Poems 2017, edited by Selina Tusitala Marsh.

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