Pasefika Issue: Two poems by Tusiata Avia

These poems are also published in a special Pasefika Issue of Fightback magazine.


The thing is

even after all these years

even after all you know

after all the times you have visited

classrooms , divided them into four

pointed to one quarter and said:

All you people have been sexually abused

to get the message across.

And then listened to them unbutton their stories

shame and anger lighting them up

firing the night inside them

the blackness all around

a thousand bright bombs falling from the sky.

The thing is

after speaking through the mouths of every kind

of good girl

girl child

bad girl


After reading

and talking and posting

the drain out of it

and then have it tunnel

back up through you

as big as an earthquake

only to disappear again.

Even after marching

at the anti-rape demonstration today

with your six-year-old daughter’s hand in yours

and a sign pinned to her chest:

Believe Survivors

even now, as you stand here in the Square

you wonder

because it was twenty-five years ago

and you did kind of like him

even though he was a bit of a Fob.

You wonder

because it was the Samoan Students’ Association so’otaga

and you were the president the year before

the first woman, the first New Zealand-born, the first afa kasi

and it was in your home town

and you helped him find a place to stay

you picked him up from the airport

it made you feel helpful

and kind and involved

and you did kind of like him.

You wonder

because after one of the asosi parties

you were a bit drunk and ended up sleeping

in the lounge of the house he was staying in

and kind of hoping something might happen

in the same way you would hold a tiny, fragile creature

in your loosely caged hands

maybe a butterfly or a baby mouse

and offer that delicate thing up

to him and hope he might

ease it gently from you

so as not to hurt it

and maybe offer something back.

Because of that

you let him kiss you

on the floor

before it turned

from a hopeful kiss with a guy

you kind of liked

to him on top of you

and you saying

No, stop it!

Because he’d stopped kissing you now

and even though he was shorter than you

he was a hell of a lot stronger than you could’ve imagined

and was prying you apart.

You wonder

because when you realised what was happening

you knew you didn’t want that

and you told him, I don’t want this. Stop!

But the thing is

he didn’t stop

he just kept going

he didn’t say anything

and you swore at him

Fucking get off me!

I don’t want this

I don’t want this

you said

I don’t want this.

But he just kept going

and didn’t say anything at all

until he was finished

when he rolled off you and said

It’s no big deal.

That’s all he said.

And you wonder

now, in the Square

if you could’ve fought harder

or not slept in the lounge

or not let him kiss you

or not kind of liked him

or not hoped he might like you too.

And you remember

that the next morning

when you got to your mother’s place

you looked at yourself in the hall mirror and thought

I’ve just been raped.

And then you had a shower

and changed into your church clothes

and went to the church service with everyone else

and he was there.

And when you returned to teachers’ college in Auckland

you couldn’t function

you kept seeing him in the cafeteria

and everywhere

and you kept cracking up

and missing classes

and when you finally went to the counsellor

and talked about it

she said, Have you heard yourself?

You keep saying

It’s no big deal.

So, today

twenty-five years later

as you watch this young woman

in the Square

the age you were then

take her clothes off in protest

you wonder again

whether it was rape

and whether it might have been your fault





My body is not an apology

not a hiding place

not an arranged and artful fortress

my body is not a vapid pool of water

my body is not draped

it is not imagined into another shape or texture

not to you, Beloved

my body is a waterfall of flesh

my body is a herd of animals, fat and groaning for the bliss of slaughter

it is the celebration running down the faces of the famished

it is handfuls and handfuls

it is marrow and jelly and sizzling fat dripping steadily into the bonfire

my body is a baptism, a confessional

my body is the vows of a hundred thousand virgin soldiers

my body is the war that scours the earth

my body is the shalom and the salaam

my body is the mother shot suddenly in the street

my body is the mother dying slowly

my body is the frightened child coaxed out from beneath the body

of her fallen mother with a promise of honey

my body is the honey drowning the blind, the halt, the deaf, the mute

my body is the hospital

my body is the orphanage

my body is a hundred ice creams lined up like parents

my body is the alofa and the aroha

my body is the Sinai, the Red Sea, Hawai’i

my body is a room full of ancestors hurtling through the hole in my chest

Hine-nui-te-po, Pele, Nafanua, Isis, Aphrodite

their arms and legs and hair, hot and wet and tangled as they leave

my body is the distance between our bones, Beloved

my body loses its mind and its manners

my body is quivering, slippery, flushed as a newborn

my body is your mother

my body is your medicine

my body is the midwife hastening your own birth

pulling you out from inside the womb of your self

my body is the Qur’an, the Torah

my body is the Christ

my body is the prophetess, the Samoan goddess of war

my body leaves the underworld and rows across the oceans

my body is wet from the journey and frightens those who run to meet me

my body knows only of itself

which is the whole world

and the sky and the moon

and the planets spinning

my body catches them all in a net made of skin

my body is the tent of my body

and dwells here on earth among us.

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