Poems by Louise Wallace, James Brown, Tofig Dankalay, Gregory Kan, Tusiata Avia, Qalina, Airini Beautrais, Selina Tusitala Marsh
Ahakoa he iti he pounamu | Although it is small it is greenstone
I choose pounamu / it is a river stone / she was of the earth
/ she was orchids in the hothouse / less difficult than her
husband / fruit trees / their hard graft / plums / nectarines /
a child we never spoke of / another a castaway / I choose to
plant my legs / to ground them / I am the child of which we
won’t speak / I am the castaway / I am orchids / fruit trees
/ I can bear more than you think / I am a river stone / and I
choose a ring made of pounamu / to remind me
A pale day, lightning
when you walk among it.
Sometimes I give in
and try to find you.
I trace and retrace my steps.
But you are nowhere.
‘Go away,’ I tell you.
It’s one scene
after another, one
sheet of paper after
point after another
I am beside myself.
You are beside me
Call me human
I am a refugee.
I am an expat.
I am a migrant.
I am a resident.
I have no ‘birth certificate’.
I am illegal.
I have no home.
I am an alien . . .
Call me names.
I am never home
I was never home
when it’s always home.
For here, I am from there
and there is everywhere.
For there, it is here.
I am an alien.
Call me names.
You called me all names.
Why not human?
Call me human.
Note from the poet: ‘I was born in Eritrea in 1974, but I grew up in the Middle East. I speak Arabic and love Arabic poetry, which has influenced me. I have lived in Auckland, New Zealand since 2016. I have an engineering degree and am currently studying towards a Master’s in artificial intelligence (AI) at Unitec University while working for Fuji Xerox.’
I wanted what happened to be something
I could know
and I wanted what I knew to be something
I could describe
something to which others could say
I know this
this happened to me also.
At the back of the room is a mirror
dreaming it’s become itself at last.
I keep walking
as if I know all the parts
and could play them.
The Spirits love me so much, they send all the people in Aranui to be my friends or my parents.
We all walk the great path from Cashmere to the sea.
We run like lawnmowers on each other’s feet.
The Spirits rise up out of the footpath outside the Hampshire Street pub.
The space that a bomb took out of the ground walks about on a pair of legs with a ghost looking out.
The Spirits love me so much they turn me into a plastic bag.
I will live in a whale or a shrimp and kill it.
My mother rises up out of the lino, wringing and wringing the blood from her hands.
The Spirits love me so much we all sit round to watch the sparklers in my brain, the beautiful sunset, the campfire burning, the jerking of my body.
My father rises up out of the carpet and down I go, like knees, like beetroot juice in the whitest of frigidaires.
The Spirits of the big path love me so much they have driven me back up to this house.
If the Spirits didn’t love me, I could live in a dog, in a wife, in a house, in Merivale or on some other shining path, far away from the hungry road.
to celebrate the mystery of the moon
my landlord surprised me
moulded into cubes of scrumptiousness
sorry to see you being
locked out of
ever owning a home
but, even desperately homeless
the starry sky
A note from the poet: ‘I was born in West Siberia and reached New Zealand in 2005. “Qalina” is a pen name adapted from my real name and a Ukrainian word for viburnum – a shrub with bitter berries famous for its medicinal use. Writing has helped me adjust to living abroad. My website showcases my poems, songs and “sonems” – the word I made up for my sung poems.’
They formed a circle, holding hands.
What cop would break such brittle wrists
stretched round this smallest of small lands?
The statue gone, the plinth still stands.
The fig tree squiggles, bends and twists.
Its branches circle, holding hands.
Some years the garden fills with bands.
The vocals roll, the beat insists,
all round this smallest of small lands.
Movers and shakers, firebrands,
rock standing firm, song that resists;
all in that circle, holding hands.
The grassy bank, the river sands,
the landing place that still exists
beside this smallest of small lands.
The years move on, and time expands
the distance, but the tale persists:
they formed a circle, holding hands,
around this smallest of small lands.
Dismantling the Crane
What is silver? Into this finger-space
the kōtuku appears, flying once only
and far – to Holland, the vacated
apartment of your quiet friends
beaded slippers for sale
behind the silhouette
of the Moroccan woman whose feet
have been hurting her all day.
What is lost, here, where there was not
even eye contact, not even
eyes? Here a woman floated half-
miserable above land clutching
a posy – now there are growing
flowers, red with fat, sappy
green stalks and spongy leaves
and beside them the neighbourly
buttercups. Silver has become
hammer and aluminium. The star
in her firmament makes her way
over Rarotonga murmuring
hoki mai, hoki mai . . .
Meanwhile, how can this tūī
be so violently black? White
petals could be made of
icing sugar, he flutters his wattle
with his two voice boxes. I sit here
wearing my bottletop, my lips, the dome
above me dewy with condensation. Outside
men in orange vests prepare
to dismantle the crane
its four ropes of chain rise
like snakes from the bed
of a dusty truck, link after link
on and on, until the morning
Christchurch Mosque Shootings
Selina Tusitala Marsh
Poet, how are you to write?
How are you, on our darkest day
To find and offer light?
I’m texting with Riz Khan
An emoji of praying hands
For our Muslim brothers
and sisters lost
The horror of an open-mouthed world
For Deans Ave mosque
For Linwood Ave mosque.
It must be of a Big Love
A Strong Love
Of which the poet needs to write.
A big, strong, call to arms
Of love, its relentless embrace
Surrounding us from
In this world.
We are 200 ethnicities here
We are 600 languages here
We remain so.
And if my evangelistic In-Law
Finally walks through
The dark and dusty village
Of her beliefs about ‘muslims’
Finally sees herself
Kneeling in a mosque
Head covered in scarf
Hands steepled in prayer
Sees her own bowed body
Feels an echoing spirit
In the air
Then there’s the light, Poet,
There’s the light.
Riz sends me pics
A dawning sun piercing fog’s breathe
The Long Walk.
‘Ahakoa he iti he pounamu | Although it is small it is greenstone’ © Louise Wallace, Bad Things (VUP, 2017)
‘Ghosting’ © James Brown, a poem in response to Colin McCahon’s Walk (Series C), 2014
‘Call me human’ © Tofig Dankalay, More of Us, edited by Adrienne Jansen with Clare Arnot, Danushka Devinda and Wesley Hollis (Landing Press, 2019)
Untitled © Gregory Kan, Under Glass (AUP, 2019)
‘Wairua Road’ © Tusiata Avia, Fale Aitu | Spirit House (VUP, 2016)
‘Mooncakes’ © Qalina, More of Us, edited by Adrienne Jansen with Clare Arnot, Danushka Devinda and Wesley Hollis (Landing Press, 2019)
‘Pākaitore’ © Airini Beautrais, Flow (VUP, 2017)
‘Dismantling the crane’ © Hinemoana Baker, Kōiwi Kōiwi (VUP, 2010)
‘Christchurch Mosque Shootings’ © Selina Tusitala Marsh, 2019