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BooksMay 7, 2021

The Friday Poem: Race Riot, by Tusiata Avia


A poem from Tusiata Avia’s Ockham-shortlisted collection The Savage Coloniser Book.

Race Riot

This is any one of them
Redfern or Ferguson or Eden Park
or the Pak’nSave carpark.
We are gathering anywhere

in a monastery or a high school or a real-estate agent’s
we are planning everywhere
and I am still afraid.

Everyone armours up: cardboard inside their clothing
beaten out tin drums and strapping.
No one has thought of helmets.

The black boys change my mind
they are getting on with business
I pad up and take jackets from their hands

stuff them up my jumper
till I look like a blow-up sumo wrestler.
All the girls and all the boys are browner than me

blacker and more political and braver.
There is a sign saying Heart or it could be HART
I don’t want to be batoned.

We march out, the whites behind the cordons
watch with those angry alabaster looks
raise their hands to point. It will truly serve us right.


The Savage Coloniser Book (Victoria University Press) is a finalist for the Mary and Peter Biggs Award for Poetry at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. The winners will be announced on 12 May.

The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are currently closed and will open again later this year.

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