Christchurch. (Photo: DAVID MOIR/AFP/Getty Images)

‘I keep walking’: Eight poems

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

Louise Wallace

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

 

Ghosting

James Brown

 

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

 

another, one

point after another

 

point. Then

I am beside myself.

 

You are beside me

then.

 

Call me human

Tofig Dankalay

 

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.’

 

Untitled

Gregory Kan

 

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.

 

Wairua Road

Tusiata Avia

 

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.

 

Mooncakes

Qalina

 

to celebrate the mystery of the moon

my landlord surprised me

bringing mooncakes

moulded into cubes of scrumptiousness

saying

sorry to see you being

locked out of

ever owning a home

but, even desperately homeless

you have

the starry sky

the moon

which is

still

free

 

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.’

 

Pākaitore

Airini Beautrais

 

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

Hinemoana Baker

 

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

is over.

 

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

Who offers

Condolences

Offers love

Offers peace

An emoji of praying hands

For our Muslim brothers

and sisters lost

In mosques

In Christchurch.

 

Riz mirrors
The horror of an open-mouthed world

Weeping

For Deans Ave mosque

For Linwood Ave mosque.

 

It must be of a Big Love

Aroha Nui

 

A Strong Love

Aroha Toa

 

Of which the poet needs to write.

 

A big, strong, call to arms

Of love, its relentless embrace

Surrounding us from

All parts

All places

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

In worship

Feels an echoing spirit

In the air

 

Then there’s the light, Poet,

There’s the light.

 

Riz sends me pics

From Windsor

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


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