Generational resilience in Pasifika poetry

To celebrate Gasav Ne Fäeag Rotuạm Ta – Rotuman Language Week, two poems from Ruby Rae Lupe Ah-Wai Macomber and Fesaitu Solomone.

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Katūivei Contemporary Pasifika Poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand is a new anthology weaving 137 poems from 89 Aoteaora-based Pacific poets. Edited by David Eggleton, Vaughan Rapatahana and Mere Taito, the collection seeks to showcase Pasifika poetry in a state of haharagi and lelea‘ mafua, a lively and evolving continuum.  

On the title of the anthology, the editors describe Katūīvei as “a hybrid term, a combination of the Rotuman word ‘kavei’ and the pan-Pacific word ‘tūī’. Kavei means to steer by or wayfind: to navigate. Tūī is the bird of Aotearoa that has a dual voice box and hence two voices, symbolic of the complexities Pasifika poets and peoples must negotiate every day. To write poetry in Niu Sila as a Pacific migrant is an act of wayfinding, a creative process of discovery and negotiation between cultural spaces.’ 

To celebrate Gasav Ne Fäeag Rotuạm Ta – Rotuman Language Week, Ako is excited to share ‘Storytelling’ by Ruby Rae Lupe Ah-Wai Macomber and ‘Fantabulous Blackie’ by Fesaitu Solomone.  


Violet travelled over 2000 kilometres 

for four days to reach NZ shores. 

It took her 93 years to return to Fiji. 

Her story is one that refuses to fade from my retina. 

Violet’s Pa has his whisky lined up again, he says, 

the little girls will have their own men to take care of them one day. 

He was gone by the time Violet began school aged 10. 

Violet’s Ma waited under the coconut tree, 

needle and thread in hand. 

Everyone dies waiting. 

The story travels by foreign tongue, 

numerous incomprehensible physical gestures, 

a lonely sigh 

standing awkwardly 

out of place 

unwilling to chase the pace of New Zealand. 

Violet stands in the kitchen of her 

three-bedroom rental. 

There is curry on the stove. 

There are frangipani tucked behind wispy hair. 

Hiram, her husband, sways next to her, 

dancing his hands upon delicate skinfolds. 

He etches finger circles on the nape of her neck, 

beard bristle tickles red cheeks. 

Two children at work, 

the others won’t be home until dinner. 

Coffee-stained breath, 

Na Vale, Home. 

He left quietly. 

When Violet returned 

there was no gravity left in her Kaikohe home. 

Window paint peeled 

as the walls crumbled and cried. 

Her son’s skinny frame barely filled the casket. 

Tapa cloths cover the walls. 

Flower wreaths dress the halls. 

Family catches the word by phone call. 

In a wheelchair, 

she cannot reach her child. 

Her bones brittle, 

he is lowered into the grave 

and he will not grab her hand. 

The room is 10 square feet, 

a quarter of which is occupied by the bathroom. 

Violet’s new Na Vale. 

Bingo Thursday lunch, 

New Zealand Woman’s delivered weekly 

after Sunday communion. 

Knobbly fingers turn large-print paperbacks cover to cover. 

Only airy-fairy English romances stock the shelves, 

Pasifika stories lost 

below the ocean’s surface. 

Her muscles seize with movement, 

not a loss of memory. 

Violet puts down the paperback. 

Those stories have been imprinted over the veins in her wrist. 

Over and over. 

Again and again. 

So much has been written over the margins of her stories. 

She can no longer read her own writing. 

The blue ink against caramel wrists, 

smear into the waves that lapped against the shores of her homeland, 

the waves that battered the boat across the South Pacific. 

Waves goodbye. 

The next storytellers 

will be revolutionaries. 

Not conquered by their culture. 

They don’t have to have the right words, 

because the next stories have come from long lines of oppression. 

The next stories, voices and lives, 

are those we have previously refused to hear. 

Their stories told as they tilt their davui shells back to their ears. 

Hands spread in the opposite of a fist. 

Ruby Rae Lupe Ah-Wai Macomber is a proud diasporic daughter of Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa. Her whakapapa stretches from Rotuma to Taveuni, Kaikohe and Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, where she now lives. When Ruby is not writing, she is a Te Kāhui creative writing facilitator, law student, Pacific studies researcher and advocate for her community. 

Fantabulous Blackie 

A professional swimmer 

Olympics here I come 

Backstroke, front stroke, two stroke, no stroke 

That’s me in my element 

No coach, no problem 

They call me Blackie, I prefer Chocolate 

Search and rescue, hola! 

Hard to find, look closely 

Camouflaged in golden black 

Colourful as the rocks on the beach 

They call me Sleepy Eyes, I prefer Popeye 

That’s my gift 

Eyes closed, heart pumping 

Glazed for target 

On point as a killer bee 

Hair curly and tangled, but not Rapunzel 

Cuddly and fluffy, but not Winnie the Pooh 

Chubby and round, but not Flubber 

Cheeky and stubborn, but not Gargamel 

I am figure eight not eighteen 

I never give up 

I never give in 

I never bend down 

I only look up for a crystal view of solitude 

I am Blackie, fantabulous and splashing 

Fesaitu Solomone is of Rotuman and Tongan heritage. Born and raised on the island of Rotuma, she migrated to Aotearoa New Zealand, making her home in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland in 2006. Her love of writing and deep connection to her homeland Rotuma enabled her to publish her first collection of poems, My Memories, My Heart, My Love. 

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