Poem by Faith Wilson. Also published in Fightback’s special Pasefika magazine issue.
My mum will always lose your mama jokes
cos they’re true. Your mama’s so poor
she mixed tomato sauce with water and pretended it was soup.
Your mama’s family so broke they break
into neighbours houses but they don’t steal
TVs and radios they steal food.
Your mama’s so damn poor that 11
people live in their tiny Tokoroa state
house and they didn’t get a car til she was 14.
My Papa, worked long hours at Kinleith
that made his heart and brain think
that happiness is just pulp fiction. He milled
paper but he didn’t make any and he died
of a brain tumour the size of eight
kids and a mortgage yet they will call
his labour unskilled. This ain’t a show
without punch I’m just telling you to go to Tok
and feel the poverty and try tell me that it comes down to
‘just get off your arse and get a job’.
But my mama’s different cos she got out of there.
Ooooh gumma mumma! Yeah my mama’s so smart
she married a white man built a house from wood.
My daddy’s so smart he sent us to a white school
and we suffered cultural dislocation but as long
as we’re educated it shouldn’t matter, right?
And now I’m so smart because I got so much
debt but some o dat paper
that says I can write about it.
And I’m so smart because I finally figured
out irony even if I’m a generation too late
so my understanding is more like a self-discovery.
O! If only breaking the cycle were as easy
as an existential crisis or the flip of a coin
or as smooth as a crisp bill rolling out of an ATM.
Because you care about breaking the cycle.
You care about poverty eh?
You care about what I’m saying.
And this writing isn’t for you.
And you, you will continue to care
in the face of blatant rejection.
Give me a penny for my sorrows
and I’ll give you a burden to bear.