SELINA TUSITALA MARSH
Not Another Nafanua Poem
Not another nafanua poem she can hear them say as she attempts to ride the
current of her culture in the new millennium with her electric waka I’m afraid
so her shadow answers back in black but this ride’s for nua’s sister the one
who stayed home and fed her father koko alaisa wiping his chin and fetching
the key for the cupboard holding the toilet pepa for the faleuila outside while
her famous warrior sister slay the stereotypes on an oceanic scale I’m afraid so
because this is the story of how her sister had to replace the stolen coconuts
meant for that evening’s saka that the warrior took without asking to cover her
womanhood I’m afraid so because someone had to feed the aiga harvest the
kalo the bananas the pawpaw bagging them and dragging them to makeke fou
to sell for kupe to pay the government school for the kids to get a scholarship
up and out of here so they can come back and open a restaurant in apia and
finally begin to tap into those rivulets of capitalism spilling over and into the
sewers and into the streets and into the back roads of the kua back villages
except for nafanua’s village someone has to tell said the shadow.
Selina Tusitala Marsh is of Samoan, Tuvaluan, and English descent. She is a poet lecturing in the English Department at the University of Auckland. Her current obsession includes developing Pasifika Poetry Web, a sister site of the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre (nzepc). It is an archival site filled with poetry, interviews, biographical and critical information on poets of Pacific Island heritage in Aotearoa. Her poetry has appeared in the 2004 Montana New Zealand Book Award-winning anthology Whetu Moana and, most recently, in Niu Voices: Contemporary Pacific Fiction 1; a collection of short stories and poetry by Pacific writers (which she edited) as well as on her sons’ bedroom walls. She is working towards publishing her first collection of poetry in 2007, titled Afakasi, in addition to publishing her doctoral research as a book; Ancient Banyans, Flying Foxes and White Ginger, the first critical anthology of the first Pacific women poets to publish in English.
Nafanua: Ancient Samoan goddess of war, commonly mythologized, and reknown for her battle prowess. She covered her breasts with coconuts and was believed to be a formidable male warrior until her womanhood was discovered.
Koko alaisa: a dish made from cooked rice, cocoa and sugar.
Saka: boiled up dish (saka kalo is boiled taro).
Aiga: extended family.
Makeke fou: market place.
Kua back: villages ‘at the back’ or away from the more westernized (hence sophisticated) capital of Apia. Derogative in meaning.