to S.


That next morning as I stepped from the shower
I caught myself in the mirror, I was shocked
to see the marks like blackened flowers
fallen onto snow, fluttering down the backs of my thighs
like finding something huge and succulent and moving.
I looked closer between my thighs
and on the cheeks of my bottom
and found the purple blooms.

And right then, the way they say people on the verge of death
see their lives flash, I saw him behind me
I saw his hands twisted in black fistfuls, my scalp scorched
my throat curved up like an invitation glistening
to a blade and my mouth open wide
like the death cries of small gods.
I saw him grind me into the bed, the wall
because there was no space no space
between us, he was pushed so far
inside me the room had to give.
I saw his hands on my hips smash me into him
I saw his fingers dig into the flesh
of my ass-cheeks like you would dig
your way through wet sand
if you knew something was buried there—
treasure or a living child.

All I wanted was for him to break
me, split me in half
and then in half again
again and again
until my body was smashed out of existence
like the cliff that becomes
the sand that swims
inside the sea.

Tusiata Avia was born in Christchurch in 1966 and is of Samoan descent. An acclaimed performance poet, her work has also been published in various literary journals, including TurbineSport and Takahe. She has written and performed in radio dramas for Radio New Zealand and has published two children’s books, The Song and Mele and the Fofo.

She completed an MA in Creative Writing at Victoria University in 2002, the same year that she premiered her solo stage show, titled “Wild Dogs Under My Skirt”. Her first collection of poetry, also titled Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, was published by Victoria University Press in 2004.

Avia comments: ‘I’ve got to admit, I blanched just a little when I first learned that “Shower” was to appear in this anthology. The subject matter speaks for itself. Putting a poem like this out into the public space (particularly as the only poem representing one’s work) is a little challenging. In 2002 I was reading Sharon Olds – I love the way she writes about the deeply intimate. I find when I really connect with a poet’s work it often gives me access to a “place” I haven’t been to before.’

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