Page 11

For his birthday
the grandson got a book.

Turn to page 11 if
Nana phones to ask if you’re allowed to drive yet 

Stay on page 4 if she’s dead.

Turn to page 13 if
your mum packs your bag for a sleep-over at Nana’s (whole-wheat 
crackers, home-made hummus, raw almonds) and once there, Nana 
gives you $10 to go to the Chinese $2 shop (by yourself) in Avondale 
and you buy $8 worth of lollies.

Stay on page 4 if she’s dead.

You wake up to a birthday breakfast. There are blue balloons taped 
to all the chairs. There are presents stacked on the table.
There’s a really large oblong parcel wrapped in newspaper.
You read the card.

Turn to page 17 if the card is from your father. 
Turn to page 18 if the card is from your Nana.

You unwrap the present.

Turn to page 21 if it is a poster of the All Blacks. 
Turn to page 23 if it is a Samurai sword from Avondale Spiders.

Turn to page 30 if you stayed with Nana that last night in hospital. 
Stay where you are if you left.

Of Samoan, Tuvaluan, English and French descent, Selina Tusitala Marsh was the first Pacific Islander to graduate with a PhD in English from the University of Auckland and is now a lecturer in the English Department, specialising in Pasifika literature. Her first collection, the bestselling Fast Talking PI (Auckland University Press), won the New Zealand Society of Authors Jessie Mackay Award for Best First Book of Poetry in 2010. Marsh represented Tuvalu at the London Olympics Poetry Parnassus event in 2012. Her work has been translated into Ukrainian and Spanish and has appeared in numerous forms in schools, museums and parks, on billboards, and in print and online literary journals. ‘Page 11’ is from her most recent collection, Dark Sparring.

Marsh comments: ‘“Page 11” plays about with the “what ifs” that invariably haunt those left behind by loved ones who have died. “What if I'd stayed?” “What if I'd not said...” “What if I'd only said...” Like a macabre melody playing in A minor, these lines carry the heavier weight of guilt and regret and longed-for fantasy. What if life was like a child’s adventure story, with many different endings, many different options, and you get to choose? What if you could turn back the page?’

Poem source details >



Auckland University Press author page
New Zealand Book Council writer file
New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre writer file