Photo: Timotei
Photo: Timotei

BooksJuly 29, 2022

The Friday Poem: ‘Saga’ by Hannah Mettner

Photo: Timotei
Photo: Timotei

A new poem from Wellington poet Hannah Mettner.

Saga

In the tradition of my people, I come to you
with a long and winding story that neither
starts at the beginning nor finishes at the end.
There is, however, a lot of middle, which is
the way with all the best sandwiches. I mean
sagas. In the tradition of my people, I’m often
distracted by food, but that is only my body
doing its best to keep me alive. Strange that
I have grown up to become neither a folk hero
nor a king. Instead, I am a woman who pickles
vegetables. I have the stained fingers of a
person who knows arcane secrets, and is not
afraid to share them. Like my ancestors, the
secret to my existence is buried under the
permafrost, which is set to melt any day now
and bring enlightenment to us all. My gut
feeling is that we won’t like what we discover
and will wish to put things back to how
they were. Which we all know is
impossible.

In the language of this country, I learn to say
that my ancestors come from the fjords—
a place I’ve never visited, but imagine to be
exactly the right temperature for my fickle
body. A place where I could look like the woman
from the Timotei ad, shaking my long hair out
under a waterfall. A place where I am never
too tall. There, I would joyfully hand in my
organzas to become a devotee of the regional folk
costume of my ancestral seat. And the language
might choke me slightly while I swallowed it
down in great mouthfuls, the shop-people
tendering their responses in polite English, but
I will know what I mean, which is more than I can
usually say for myself. It’s funny how slippery the idea
of home is if you spend too much time thinking about it.
And how no one asks white people that terrible
question, where are you from, even when they’re
the absolute furthest away from where they
started.

In the interests of historical accuracy I should
let it be known once and for all that the family
recipe is a dud. The recipe is for a pineapple
cheesecake made with evaporated milk and no
cream cheese whatsoever. I guess it’s true that
some people just don’t want to enjoy life. I learn
too that I belong to the ‘crying side’ of the family
and that the mythos of the non-crying side
circles like wolves round a fire, coming in close
to tear the limb from a sleeping cousin before
loping back into the night. My aunt reports
that we used to be Vikings, but it is clear that
that was a very long time ago. For example,
all my hobbies are activities that involve sitting
down and not being killed. I only learn these
things as I learn that it is rude to introduce
myself with nothing more to offer than a name.
My history tightens around me like a knot and
there is wild blackberry growing through it
like everything here.

 

The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are welcome and will be open until 31 July 2022. Please send up to three poems in a Word or PDF document to chris@christse.co.nz.

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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