The flying fox and the Che Guevara

I cared for my children like a flying fox 
kept them safe under my wings 
when they were small and hesitant

tipped paracetamol and antibiotics 
down persistently inflamed throats 
during endless nights of earache

gassed them with ventolin cocktails 
when asthma stole their breath

had broken bones reset and a tongue bitten off 
from a faulty landing on a trampoline 
reattached in a theatre without movies

then regretted it 
when that fiapoko mouth 
started up again

we've laughed at dinosaurs and cartoons 
at nana crooning Buffalo Soldier 
at pa's jokes and the bills that kept arriving 
for the ever-declining cashflow card

there were the retreads that outlived cars 
and the unexpected appearance of food 
in our sprayed and wiped-out cupboards

there's so much to think about 
as I sit barefoot in church 
behind the vividly turbaned mamas 
paying their respects to Éloi Machoro

a South Pacific Che Guevara 
a dead son of this island

that siege 
and the photo of Machoro 
smashing a ballot box with an axe

immortalised him beyond the bullets 
that felled a man into a crimson pool

my sons are still learning the difference 
between people's needs and wants 
and how to match actions with words

but I remember

they wore their Che Guevara t-shirts 
until they fell off their backs 


Note: fiapoko: a derogatory term/admonishment used when a person is cheeky or conducts themselves in a way that does not befit them (Samoan).


LISTEN to ‘The flying fox and the Che Guevara’ by Serie Barford

Serie (Cherie) Barford was born in Aotearoa-New Zealand to a migrant German-Samoan mother and a Palagi father. She lives in West Auckland and has published three collections of poetry as well as Entangled Islands (Anahera Press, 2015), a collection which combines poetry with prose. Serie’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, most recently in Essential New Zealand PoemsWhispers and VanitiesCordite Poetry ReviewJacket 2 and in the Phantom Billstickers poetry project. Serie performs poetry at public events and was awarded the Seresin Landfall Residency in 2011.

Barford comments: ‘I have visited Kanaky (New Caledonia) several times and encountered enthusiastic welcomes when I walked into some villages wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt. I had seen portraits of Guevara and Éloi Machoro painted on bus stops and learned that Machoro, a Kanak political activist, is known as “the South Pacific Che Guevara”. He is revered by those who regard him as a freedom fighter and reviled by others who consider him a terrorist.

‘There is a famous photo of Machoro smashing a ballot box with an axe when the FLNKS (pro-Kanak independence party) boycotted the November 1984 election. Machoro went on to capture the mining town of Thio, which was held under siege for three weeks, before being shot dead by French paramilitary sharpshooters in a farmhouse near La Foa. I spent some time in Kanaky and visited places associated with Machoro’s life and death.’

Poem source details >


New Zealand Book Council writer file
Anahera Press
Entangled Islands on Amazon