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
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:
even now, as you stand here in the Square
because it was twenty-five years ago
and you did kind of like him
even though he was a bit of a Fob.
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.
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.
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
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 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.
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
IT WAS NOT MY FAULT IT WAS RAPE IT WAS NOT MY FAULT IT WAS RAPE IT WAS NOT MY FAULT IT WAS RAPE IT WAS NOT MY FAULT IT WAS NOT MY FAULT IT WAS RAPE IT WASNOTMYFAULTITWASRAPEWASWASNOTMYFAULTITWASRAPEITWASNOTMYFAULT
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.