Home Current Qualm Previous Writers
NAFANUA, THE SAMOAN GODDESS OF WAR, BECOMES A CREOLE
Nafanua lays the flesh of smoked freshwater fish
against the skin of her belly
she is as dark as an octoroon
or a quadroon even.
Against the skin of her belly
a lover the colour of a brown paper bag
or a quadroon even
the colour of river shrimp and lake shrimp.
A lover the colour of a brown paper bag
who could pass for black or white
the colour of river shrimp and lake shrimp
Nafanua melts down to a golden roux.
Who could pass for black or white?
Nafanua with a body soft as pig fat.
Nafanua melts down to a golden roux
runs in shining streaks down to the open mouth.
Nafanua with a body soft as pig fat
Nafanua with a belly like a salt trout
runs in shining streaks down to the open mouth
of the brackish Pontchartrain.
NAFANUA, THE SAMOAN GODDESS OF WAR, TALKS ABOUT HER FRIENDS IN PHILLY
Last night I spoke to the prophet
in Philadelphia by phone
I told him Lucky Dube was dead
That is just about the last straw he said
Lucky has always sung about peace
and now we need a sniffer machine to find it.
Today, Tammany (who is often mistaken for Jamaican)
gave that look to his uncle
Tammany never washes the pots
just eats the food and lets it rot
Uncle threw the pot at Tammany’s head
and banged him up against the wall.
Now, no one can find him
he’s turned into something and flown away.
There is a boy called Willy Cramp
who lives next door with his mother
she makes him stand outside the eye hospital
while she brings coloured sailors home.
I watched through the side window one night
when Willy Cramp came home
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry
there he was, standing in the rain
wearing a ruined umbrella like a skirt.
O LE ALA O LE ALOFA (THE ROAD OF THE LOVING HEART)
Robert Louis Stevenson d. 3 December 1894
At the hour of my death
start cutting trees
from here to the peak of Mount Vaea
Wear good boots and take water
this heat is hard on palagi.
Victorian ladies panting
the intimate smell of stays
the insides of pith helmets
the undersides of breasts
of taupo and kitchen girls.
Strike up the band
all fourteen of ’em
chicken, ham, cake
rounds of Claret Negus
flavoured with rum and limes.
tumble my stovepipe trousers
in the waterfall
throw in the lion skins
the lady angel in the parlour
the darkened medicine room.
Drink the soup
and remember the Samoans in Stuart tartan
who cut all night
all the next day.
Take the hand dug road to Vailima
o le ala o le alofa.
O le ala o le alofa is the name of the cross island track built for RLS by Samoan chiefs in gratitude for his practical and moral support during their imprisonment after the rebellion of King Mata’afa in July 1893.
When RLS died Samoans cut a path from his house to the top of Mt Vaea where he was buried.
taupo: unmarried titled woman of high rank
Stanza 3 is from RLS’s Vailima Letters
Face the facts, you will have to learn the new system.
The one you knew is (out-and-out) moded and dated.
Its odder traits you took for quirks of a friend
are now archaic as o’er. Remember when
the world was flat and our schoolpapers were graded?
Face the facts. You will have to learn the new system
because what we know keeps bubbling up and then
goes the way of all bubbles, Bub. You inflated
its odder traits, took them for quirks of a friend:
poetry shelves that began in PS, the “ten
thousand things” several decimals underrated.
Face the facts. You will have to learn. The new system
is tougher, sure, but we’re coming in on weekends.
So much old work gets jumbled, reduplicated.
Its traitor’s odds you cooked for firks of a trend,
but your number is up and the system is down again.
It was super once (now we whisper -annuated).
Face the facts. You will have to. Learn the new system:
>It soldered rates / chew tuck / fork work / suffer [end].>
Two anagram poems (see writers page)
THE STATUTE SCHEMERS
Look at us: caged nerds, welling
lot. We dallied. Gunk groan, cess
we reallocated, dusk longings,
treason. We doll-suckled aging
Once I sunk low, stalled ragged.
I called, nagged soul networks,
a decade skull-wrestling—no go.
Drunk and collegiate, we gloss
a kind lull. Togaed congress, we
a gesturing, swollen deadlock.
Look at us: declaring news, gelding
legend. Look at us: scrawled
ledger’s end. Look at us: clawing
dragons we legislated—no luck.
long sidetracked! Law’s loungelong
rugs I walked, adolescent,
words alkalescent. Go, indulge
legal ranks, ego. Did we consult
lost works? Language declined
designed laws to lurk, congeal,
weld strong a Decalogue’s link.
Golden rulings awaked, closet
skeletons wiggled, a cauldron
scalded us. Roll taken. Going, we
desecrated walls. Gun-looking,
scandalling, we sold out. Greek
words snuggle like anecdotal
lacunae, linked word toggles….
A lackluster, doggone swindle.
The Child is Father of the Man.
Fetal heathen from ditch, his
thin mother has filched fate,
she lichened him forth fat at
once, a Hamlet’s third Fifth.
Faith teethed him. Half-scorn,
half-chafe, the Id-monster hit
him. Teased. Oh, nth heart-cliff,
affliction. He thrashed them,
harsh mind effect. Hail to the
chief, hoist them fatherland
anthems, their hitched offal,
that fresh filth. He-comedian,
he fetched animals—Thrift, Ho-
ratio!—he shafted them. Flinch
then, child. Fear is the fathom.
for Heteralocha acutirostris
the telltale silks of volcanic expulsions -
mark of the surrealist, Mercury -
our world's hobby, permanency,
tore the lifetime off its back,
chapters the vine
particle by particle you are beamed offsite
boiler in the solar teaspoon,
sharpener, unzip you from your tree,
a colonialist who keeps two roadhouses
and you can enter neither
a supper of soot
at each equator
two white dynamites;
the eggshell lady
light-years and much
too much hydrogen
the intervening dust-up
obscured by emulsion
minarets of molars
the erasure of the surname
tablespoons of planet in the gullet
a soft decaying mammal to nest in
world-heart cannot distinguish
the invader in the quicksand,
she has not undergone much chapel;
they give a two-naked-eye-opener of a cold
to erase the giving land
I can see you fighting, but I cannot save you
The surface tension
of a floating unit
The sound of a theremin.
The moon out one window.
The earth out one window.
An ion in a polar
a lovely firework in the eye.
in a malignant tumour
on the brain stem.
The undulating edge
of a severed ring finger
replete with ring.
The sound of death
In the event of failure to ignite
you are buried at sea in your ship,
in the sea of space
Fishermen will know exactly what I mean,
old maps show this quite clearly.
This sunken forest, you can still turn on a lathe;
a hundred thousand years submerged.
The fault scarp scooped the mudslide
for a full day's ride.
One day you looked up
and finally it was happening; smoke
not from the mouth of the cloud piercer,
but the range to its right.
I saw it once, but nobody believed me.
They are whom the hot mud will come up to,
it's coming to get your ko and your tauihu.
for safekeeping. It's a secret eruption.
The huge ugly hole fascinates motorists.
The flexing claws of the seatop volcano -
these are cone collapses -
but underneath, yes, sunken forest.
If you choose a king tide
and take a walk on the Waitara beach,
when you are out far enough
for the waves to cover your ears,
to see the leaves emerging on the treetops,
the small crowned extinct birds,
the one large huia to karanga
with the pearl of a bubble in her beak -
Ko: digging stick; tauihu: canoe prow
Karanga: A part of the powhiri, the Maori welcoming ceremony, an exchange of calls by women of the receiving and visiting parties. Karanga follow a format which includes greeting each other and addressing and acknowledging the dead.
SONG OF THE SINGLE-MINDED
The ants scent their future, one-by-one,
the planes divide the sky, the blood
pushes through darkness till the light calls it up
through a needle, ocean currents drag life
in an endless loop – ignore the Sargasso –
of reproduction, Monarch wings litter the earth
in mile-long swatches of poisonous color,
each virus fills a cell with itself until
the cell explodes, grass reaches through
the soil in bud after bud poking its crown
through the ground until the original dies
and all that’s left are copies and a barren spot
in the yard, eventually you are so far away
there is no trace of where you came from.
THE THEORETICAL TASTE OF MEAT
In theory, everything is theoretical, everything imagined
in the brain but never proven. Ye damnéd philosophes
and your mind games! Once thought, they can’t be returned.
No telling how many minds you’ve copied yourself onto.
And to what avail? In the world of the real, everyone believes
they are the player, but we are, each one of us, only played.
Take this bacon. Charred black on the edges, rusted blood
between, the cooked flesh still spits and steams, and yet
the taste itself is unimaginable. It can only be tasted.
And who’s to say I taste bacon and not broccoli? Or that you and I
would ever taste the same meat or touch the same grease?
As a vegetarian, you’re shackled to the raw animal deal of it.
Let me put it this way: It is different money the homeless dream of
than that you finger in your pocket, and let there stay.