Photograph of heart-shaped green leaves with holes (kawakawa plant)
Kawakawa, the good kind, with caterpillar holes (Photo: LazingBee/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Perhaps we should’ve stayed: a poem-essay hybrid

This piece opens Hana Pera Aoake’s intense and provocative first book, A Bathful of Kawakawa and Hot Water. 

Chris Holdaway of Compound Press says, “This has been far and away our most popular book ever: the first edition sold out in under three months, and we’re currently ripping through the second edition, likely preparing to print a third.”

Aoake wrote this piece in Lisbon, Portugal, while studying at the Maumaus institute.

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED.

SOMETIMES THE LONGING MIGHT KILL YOU.

OTHER TIMES IT MIGHT JUST BE THE EXHAUSTION.

IT’S GOOD TO BE YEARNING.

MAYBE YOU YEARN FOR SOMEONE OR MAYBE YOU JUST YEARN FOR SOMETHING BETTER.

WATCHING BODIES FROM VERY FAR AWAY THROUGH A SCREEN DOES NOT GIVE YOU A SENSE OF WHO SOMEONE REALLY IS.

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED. 

THE IDEA OF HAPPINESS IS JUST CAPITALISM.

HAVE A BREAK FROM CIGARETTES.

HAVE A BREAK FROM ALCOHOL.

DON’T TAKE DRUGS IF THEY MAKE YOU FEEL DEPRESSED FOR MANY DAYS AFTER.

IF YOU TAKE UPPERS PLEASE TAKE 5HTP. 

BRUSH YOUR TEETH 2-3 TIMES A DAY

DRINK PLENTY OF WATER.

TRY AND SLEEP MORE REGULAR HOURS.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO FLOSS.

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED.  

DON’T SEND NUDES TO MONEY MEN JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE BORED AND THEY REMIND YOU OF PATRICK BATEMAN BUT WITH A MONOTONE KIWI ACCENT.

AT LEAST MAKE MEN PAY FOR YOUR TIME.

PERHAPS WE SHOULD HAVE STAYED.

COLONISATION NEVER ENDED IT JUST REBRANDED AND LOOKS LIKE AN AIR BNB OWNED BY A YUMMY MUMMY WHO GOES JOGGING WHILE DRINKING A TURMERIC LATTE 

IT’S EVERY LAND “DEVELOPMENT” SITE AND EVERY LINE AND BORDER AND BOUNDARY AND SPECULATION.

A piece of art that looks like an abstract map

Art by Hana Pera Aoake features throughout her book (Photo: Supplied)

FEUDAL JUDICIAL SYSTEMS STILL SIGNIFY “STATUS”

THE WORD RUIN THOUGH IS DIFFICULT TO EXPLAIN SO I WOULDN’T SAY WE ARE RUINED 

IT’S JUST THAT EVERY SOCIAL RELATION IS TRAPPED UNDER THE TOTALITY OF OUR COMPLETE ALIENATION FROM EACH OTHER 

THE FREEDOM TO FEAR IS THE HOPE AND THE CALL TO ACTION 

THE APOCALYPSE IS IMMUTABLE

BURN MAHUIKA BURN 

LOOK WHAT WE HAVE DONE

WE ARE GIVEN GIFTS THAT WE ONLY EXPLOIT

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED

MOST PEOPLE ARE BETTER FRIENDS THAN LOVERS.

NOTHING IS AS EASY AS YOU THINK. 

WHAT IS LOST CAN OCCASIONALLY BE FOUND.

WHEN U SAY GOODNIGHT ONLINE KISS YOUR COLD SCREEN AND IMAGINE KISSING WARM LIPS AND BODIES OF PEOPLE YOU MISS.

HOLD THE ONES YOU LOVE WITH YOU ALWAYS IN EVERY CREVICE OF YOUR SKIN 

FAMILY IS ALWAYS THERE ALL OF YOUR TUPUNA ARE ALWAYS THERE HOLDING U UP 

TALKING TO SOMEONE YOU LOVE IS A KIND OF HOLY COMMUNION.

IT’S OKAY TO WATCH PORN JUST DON’T FUCK PEOPLE WHO WATCH TOO MUCH PORN. 

STOP HAVING SEX LIKE A PORN STAR UNLESS IT’S TO MAKE SURE THAT THE SEX IS OVER FASTER, BECAUSE WELL IT’S MAINTENANCE SEX 

STOP HAVING BAD SEX 

DON’T FUCK WHITE ENGLISH MEN WHO ARE LITERALLY FROM ENGLAND AND DON’T KNOW WHERE NEW ZEALAND IS

THEY OFTEN JUST COLONISE YOUR BODY.

THEY DON’T KNOW THEIR HISTORY BUT YOU DO.

MAYBE BECAUSE IT’S IN THEIR NATURE OR MAYBE BECAUSE THEY DON’T KNOW THAT EVERY PRIVILEGE THEY HAVE WAS BECAUSE THEY TOOK FROM EVERYWHERE THEY WENT.

MAYBE THEY ARE ACTUALLY KIND PEOPLE.

IGNORANCE IS BLISS AND THE ULTIMATE LUXURY. 

NEVER FORGET YOUR TUPUNA WERE MURDERED FOR THEIR LAND IN EXCHANGE FOR BLANKETS AND THE ENGLISH DID THIS EVERYWHERE BUT SOMEHOW BREXIT IS A REAL LIFE THING AND NOT A JOKE.

RACISM IS NOT JUST A PRODUCT OF PSYCHOLOGICAL MALICE BUT A PRODUCT OF CAPITALISM

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED  

SOMETIMES PEOPLE LISTEN OTHER TIMES IT’S SELECTIVE HEARING. 

EVERYONE THINKS ABOUT THEMSELVES MORE THAN THEY THINK ABOUT YOU.

SOMETIMES PEOPLE ARE NO LONGER YOUR FRIENDS AND THAT’S OKAY ESPECIALLY IF THEY WERE KINDA SHITTY FRIENDS

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED

GLIDING THROUGH METROPOLIS AFTER METROPOLIS.

EVERYONE IN EVERY CITY COMPLAINS ABOUT HAVING A BAD METRO SYSTEM.

AT LEAST THERE IS A METRO.

THEY HAVE NO CLUE. 

LOOKING FOR LOVE AND GETTING SPAT ON.

SCRAPING KNEES ON COBBLESTONES.

MAYBE IT’S JUST COMING FROM A COUNTRY WHERE ALL THE INDIGENOUS HISTORY WAS ERASED SO WE HAVE “NO HISTORY”.

PARIS IS A MILITARY SURVEILLANCE STATE THAT’S ABOUT TO BOIL LIKE EVERYWHERE ELSE 

LONDON WAS MY NEMESIS AND MY NEMESIS TOOK SO MUCH FROM OUR FUTURES AND CELEBRATED THIS WITH EVERY GRAIN OF CONCRETE ON EVERY STATUE DEDICATED TO BRITAIN.

AMSTERDAM WAS A BLIP.

DUBAI IS FAKE BUT THE ONLY TRUE SUBLIME THAT KANT WOULD’VE HATED.

SYDNEY MARKS THE BEGINNINGS OF AN ATTEMPT OF GENOCIDE THAT NEVER STOPPED.

SEOUL IS THE KALEIDOSCOPIC  CITY OF ALL MY DREAMS.

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED

SMILING MONEY MEN FROM LONDON ON THEIR STAG DOS DRUNK WITH CLUMSY HORSE FACES SLURPING €1 BEER TAKING SELFIES THEY WON’T REMEMBER IN FRONT OF SCULPTURES DEDICATED TO MURDER AND “HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT”.

FAKE BEACHES.

APEROL SPRITZ.

WHITE COTTON AND LINEN “EUROPEAN SUMMER” LOOKS.

COSMOPOLITAN COLONIAL HEART. 

“THE SETTLER”

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED.

THE GRIME AND DIRT OF A CITY UNDER YOUR FINGERNAILS.

DESPERATION IS EXCRETED UNDER EVERY LOOSE TILE THAT RED FACED TOURISTS TAKE PHOTOS IN FRONT OF.

THE HOMELESS DISPLACED BY THE RED FACED TOURISTS WITH CAMERAS AS WIDE AS AN ELEPHANT’S TRUNK AND CONDESCENDING FLASHING SMILES

HOW COULD ANYONE BE THIS ENTITLED 

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED.

Two books, one grey and one a muted blue, both A Bathful of Kawakawa and Hot Water

Typefaces designed by Samoan New Zealander Joseph Churchward (Photo: Chris Holdaway)

DELETE INSTAGRAM AND FACEBOOK AND TWITTER

IT MAKES SENSE THAT THE OCEAN TIDES AND THE MOON ARE CONNECTED.

IT SEEMS SELFISH TO EXIST AND NOT SEE THE PAIN OF OTHERS.

NO ONE IS EVER REALLY GONE.

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED. 

IT IS OKAY TO FEEL JEALOUS OF BABIES, BECAUSE 

WE ALL WANT TO HAVE A TANTRUM SOMETIMES.  

LET GO OF ANGER IN A WAY THAT WILL MAKE YOU A BETTER PERSON.

STOP TRYING TO LOBOTOMIZE YOURSELF WITH YOUTUBE CELEBRITY GOSSIP VIDEOS

CHERISH GOOD MEMORIES OF PEOPLE YOU HAVE LOVED.

THE MARKET ONLY MAKES SENSE TO THOSE WHO WERE BORN WINNING.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO TRUST OR LIKE EVERYONE YOU MEET.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE FRIENDS JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE FROM THE SAME COUNTRY. 

IT’S OKAY TO BE CRITICAL AS LONG AS YOU ARE AWARE OF YOUR OWN FLAWS AND BLIND SPOTS.

IT IS OKAY TO BE WRONG. 

DON’T CARRY THE GUILT OF EATING BADLY.

DON’T REACH OUT TO EX LOVERS WHO IGNORE YOU OR WHO HAVE BECOME POLITICIANS, COKEHEADS OR JOINED A CULT. 

DON’T GET ANGRY IF YOU CAN’T GET WHAT YOU WANT.

ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR FLAWS.

PLEASE REMEMBER TO FLOSS.

EVERYONE IS TRYING THEIR BEST. 

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED.

SOMETIMES THE THOUGHT OF LOSING SOMEONE CAN MANIFEST INTO LOSING SOMEONE.

ALWAYS DO WHAT FEELS GOOD.

PEOPLE WHO RIDE BICYCLES SMILE TOO MUCH.

WEARING A POLLUTION MASK BUT MAKE IT FASHION.

DON’T HAVE SEX WITH PEOPLE WHO DON’T MOISTURISE.

IMAGINE BEING AS DEWY AS TRINITY AND NEO FUCKING BEFORE GOING TO THE END OF THE WORLD PARTY IN THE MATRIX RELOADED 

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED 

PUT ICE ON YOUR FACE WHEN IT’S PUFFY FROM CRYING.

ONLY KISS MEN WHO LOVE CINEMA BUT DON’T MANSPLAIN MOVIES TO YOU.

NEVER TRUST QUEER PEOPLE WHO ARE WHITE AND GET DEFENSIVE ABOUT THEIR WHITENESS. 

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED. 

YOU CAN LOVE SOMEONE YOU HAVE ONLY MET THROUGH A SCREEN. 

ITS UNBEARABLE TO LOVE SOMEONE WHO WILL NEVER LOVE YOU.

NEVER FALL IN LOVE WITH AN ARTIST OR A POET. 

ONLY LOVE PEOPLE WHO EITHER MAKE YOU LAUGH OR WHOM YOU MAKE LAUGH.

SOMETIMES YOU THINK THIS CITY IS YOUR LOVER BUT REALLY YOU ARE JUST ITS CLOWN

BE MORE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF AND WITH OTHERS.

PERHAPS WE SHOULD’VE STAYED.

DRINK LOTS OF WATER. 

LEARN TO MAKE A COMMITMENT TO YOURSELF BEFORE TRYING TO COMMIT TO OTHERS.

LEARN TO EXERCISE BOUNDARIES.

NEVER RUSH A RELATIONSHIP.

TAKE TIME TO BUILD TOGETHER. 

DON’T TAKE ON PROBLEMS THAT ARE NOT YOURS.

AS JUDGE JUDY WOULD SAY 

BEAUTY FADES, DUMB IS FOREVER.

DON’T GO DOWN ON PEOPLE WHO DON’T GO DOWN ON YOU. 

YOU DON’T HAVE TO KNOW EVERYTHING. 

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE FRIENDS WITH EVERYONE.

PAY ATTENTION TO WHO UPLIFTS YOU WHEN YOU’RE DOWN AS MUCH AS WHEN YOU ARE UP. 

MANAGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS OF YOURSELF AND OF OTHERS.

EVERYONE IS TRYING THEIR BEST. 

I’M TRYING TO LOVE YOU BUT YOU ARE TOO FAR AWAY.

PEOPLE WITH ROUGH HANDS ARE THE BEST KIND OF PEOPLE. 

YOU WANT TO BE THE BIG TOUGH COWBOY OF THIS CITY, BUT YOU ARE MORE LIKE THE IDEA OF THE WILD WILD WEST IN THIS CITY.

SWALLOWED 

PERHAPS I SHOULD’VE STAYED.

A Bathful of Kawakawa and Hot Water, by Hana Pera Aoake (Compound Press, $25-$35), is available from Unity Books Wellington and can be ordered from Auckland

This piece was originally published in the online magazine Middleground, a UK publication for mixed-race voices.




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