Nafanua goes to Russia and meets some friends from back home

Maui is outside the government giftshop on Nevsky
looking just like she expects
full face moko whites of his eyes

Never give an even number of flowers
to a living person, he lisps
or count your money in the dark.

Hinenuitepo is kissing a soldier underground
in the Cherneshevsky metro
in a Soviet style jacket and sharp stiletto shoes.

Her teeth are obsidian
and she is composing a waiata
that goes va-gi-na-den-ta-ta or something like that.

Rangi works in a petshop
next to a gunshop where the sun never sets
he sells diamond yellow snakes

and oiled scorpions he hopes no one will buy.
Poor people with hypoallergenic
cats stand outside and offer

them to passersby
Kats, they say in English

Tangaroa's converted to Russian Orthodox
she finds him at the Church on Spilled Blood
mouthing the words in Slavonic

For yours is the kingdom
the power
the glory


Tusiata Avia is a poet, performer and children's writer. Her solo stage show, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, premiered in New Zealand in 2002 and has since toured in Austria, Germany, Hawai'i, Australia, Bali and Russia. Her first collection of poetry, also titled Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, was published by Victoria University Press  in 2004. Her latest book of poetry, Bloodclot, was published by VUP in 2009. She held the Fulbright Pacific Writer in Residence at the University of Hawai'i in 2005 and this year she is the Ursula Bethel/ CNZ Writer in Residence at the University of Canterbury.

Avia comments: ' "Nafanua goes to Russia and meets some friends from back home", is from Bloodclot, a book-length sequence of poems that tell the story of Nafanua, the Samoan goddess of war, as she leaves the underworld to wander the earth as a half-caste girl from Christchurch. I wrote this while in St Petersburg where I was always coming across rather extraordinary things. Walking down Nevsky one day, I was surprised to see an image of a Maori warrior complete with moko (full face tattoo) used as the emblem of a St Petersburg tourist shop. It gave me the idea of the presence of the Polynesian gods in this place so far away from home.

Poem source details >



Victoria University Press author page
New Zealand Book Council writer file
nzepc – New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre: online work (includes video and audio, poems, interviews and articles)