Saturday, 12 April 2014

Kept safe in five syllables

                                    Photo Credit: Lynne-Marie Eteuati

Kept safe in five syllables

a haiku for my
faraway parents
        alofa tele atu

Parents in Japan
See cherry trees blossoming
Here grandchildren bloom

Fleeting beauty bolts
past like childhood much too fast
and we clutch at both

constrained by ingrained
tautua mo Samoa
My father’s duty

We know no beauty
can compare but true service
is a sacrifice

and both of them have
always been so generous
of spirit and self

honour them knowing
their Facebook smiles do not show
they left their hearts here

Ta - ni - fa -te - a
Kept safe in five syllables
Ti - gi - i - la - gi

Author's postscript: I honour my parents and I honour the work they do for our country, and I have the deepest respect for the beautiful cultured country that they do that work in (which is why I clumsily tried to use the haiku- a Japanese art form).  But we miss them- terribly.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Just another Pasifika poet

I am just another Pasifika poet
a token, a sound bite
No matter what I write
my words cannot stand
on their own
because I am not quite white.

I am just another Pasifika poet
so I must speak in iambic pentameter
    or you will conclude
I don’t know what that is
and I learnt my craft on youtube

You will say I must be copying Def Poetry Jam
Because you know

We are
both brown.

who have never heard the beauty
of a tulafale’s words
unfurling in full flight
   dipping and soaring
on wings of light
                      the sound of a gafa
melodious and sweet
                                                and deep
a dangerous lullaby
that can rip you apart with its teeth

would not understand


you say

I am just another Pasifika poet
On a search for identity
As if I don’t know
my entire geneaology
you say I am obsessed with the other
because I do not talk about you
as if Aotearoa is not part of the Pacific
and Pasifika
does not belong here too

and the most disturbing thing is

you didn’t even
to realize
that what you were saying was offensive
or how it was a stereotype
you truly seemed to believe





because you are


(I assume…
like you did)

and your words


on their own.

and I


just another 
Pasifika poet
No matter what I write
My words cannot stand
on their own
Because I am not quite white
and this


is just another sound bite

I hope it rips you apart

with its teeth.

Author's postscript:  I was not going to dignify an 'article' that was published in The Big Idea with a response.  I went instead to SUP and performed a couple of the poems (Denial and A Lament -that are already up on this blog) in solidarity.  But it was not enough.  Too often we look the other way.  As evident by the title of this blog-  I normally live in Sydney.  I have lived in Australia for more than 10 years now.  As an Australian (as well as a Samoan and a New Zealander) I own that Australia has issues with racism.  Popular culture tell us that New Zealand is more accepting, a place that truly embraces its Pacific heritage.  I was looking forward to this change during my 'gap year' (as I am referring to it so I can sound youthful like that). So I have been somewhat shocked that New Zealand hasn't quite been the utopia of multi-cultural respect that I fondly recalled.  I can honestly say that I have had moments since arriving in Auckland where I have listened to people speak, or read an article such as this one, and thought that I have never felt more brown.  This is my response.