NAFANUA PURCELL KERSEL
I will not let my pen write your name
to invoke you in black cursive
and blot ink on my thickened skin.
I will grow babies and vegetables
swearing teenagers and stone-fruit trees
bottle their sweetness for my winter.
I will chase toddlers and follow slugs
dig out splinters, nits, thorns and grassweed
I'll pinch out, stake up, trellis over.
I will not dare a pause, a rose,
something on paper to meddle with me,
poke my side and ask, 'Why so busy?'
I will dry leaves for tea and seasoning
fuss over pumpkins and baby teeth
rub pith and grind my own grit.
I will swill wine to empty my sleep
smoke, sweat and sweep you under the house.
No pain, no pain, no twisted remains.
I will make mud pies and crocheted hats.
Sauerkrauted, playdoughed, sourdoughed,
tan-skinned, heavy-muscled, big-brained kids.
I will knot your name three times with cord
walk widdershins around your memory
grow space and tend pages, struck free of you.
Nafanua Purcell Kersel (Aleipata, Faleālupo, Satupaʻitea, Tuaefu) is a writer, poet and performer who was born in Samoa and raised in Te-Whanganui-a-Tara, Aotearoa. Her poetry has been published in Turbine | Kapohau, Vā: Stories by Women of the Moana (Tatou Publishing, 2022), and Vines 3. A graduate of Te Pūtahi Tuhi Auaha o Te Ao, the International Institute of Modern Letters, she was the recipient of the 2022 Biggs Family Prize in Poetry for her collection Black Sugarcane.
She is based in Te Matau-a-Māui, where she raises three children, many animals and her voice.
Nafanua comments: 'The first time I performed "Protection Order", I introduced it as a "hex on my ex" which I think describes one possibility of the poem. During my MA year at the IIML in 2022, my supervisor James Brown gave me a set of lines from other writers' poetry to work into poems. In this poem, the line "A pause, a rose, something on paper" is borrowed from My Life, by Lyn Hejinian. I thought about the word "pause" and considered how a pause can also be a spell, a moment of malleable potential. I was curious because this brought up specific moments for me, moments connected to a range of feelings—panic, dread, resentment, audacity and vengeance. In my experience, these feelings belong to instances where past traumas suddenly interrupt my daily life. The poem displays the level of will (I will, I will, I will) it can take for me to reprioritise focus during these moments/pauses/spells. I enjoy the sense of audacity in choosing to prioritise the mundane and ritualise the domestic, as a measure of protection, unburdening and vengeance.'