Wednesday afternoon

my father is “having fun”
cleaning the floor
he uses the plugged in sink as a bucket
wears rags on his feet
and shimmies to a cleaning beat
he asks me to read the label
on the bottle for him
he wants our floor to shine
and laughs when (surprise)
it does
this is how I will remember him
moonwalking across our kitchen floor
rags under his feet
“that’s how my mother taught me”
he says
“but I never take any note
it takes me forty years to do what she say”

Karlo Mila was born in Rotorua in 1974 to a Tongan father and a Pakeha mother. She grew up in Palmerston North and now lives and works in Auckland. Karlo is an emerging poet and her poetry has been published in a small number of anthologies including Whetu MoanaShort Fuse: The Global Anthology of Fusion Poetry and Coffee and Coconuts. Karlo performs live poetry regularly in Auckland and is working on her first collection of poems. A lot of her work focuses on identity and the various negotiations of what it means to be Pacific in New Zealand.

Mila comments: ‘This poem is about my father, Maka ‘Ulu’ave Mila, who is Tongan. I stayed with him while I was doing post-graduate study and was completing Albert Wendt’s creative writing paper at the University of Auckland. For Albert’s paper, each week we would be asked to write a new poem. I was sitting in our kitchen watching my dad wash the floor and the poem jumped out of his mouth onto the paper in front of me.

‘It is quite an irony that my father can’t read, especially when words are such an important part of my life. He is one of those Pacific fathers who believed passionately in educating his daughters to “find a better way” in the Palangi world. He remains one of the smartest (and stubbornest) people I know, even though he is not literate. I have tried to write many poems about him and yet he is somehow captured best in this little scenario of a poem, which holds his energy and personality with uncanny accuracy. It always makes me smile when I read this poem in public – I can never get his accent right!’

Poem source details >



Huia Publishers
New Zealand Book Council profile