The quickest way to trap a folktale

a research institution walks into a village
                    scholarly clothes
                    sharp alien tools
fine-spun birthmarks flow out of a magic twig
a wet metallic nose presses onto the thinnest
white flat bread that folds into a boat

a research institution gets to work
it asks us to open our mouths
we open
it lifts our tongues and prods
we sit very still
it pinches our uvulae with its forefinger and thumb
we do not gag
it pokes its head in and calls up to our nasal cavities
‘hello, is anyone up there?’
we do not sneeze it out of our conscience
it holds a light into our eyes
we do not blink

a research institution collects its treasures
Mafi and Lu's marriage
annulled in a gazebo of hard covers
Raho's canoe
chopped and chiselled to stand like an antique spine
Moeatiktiki's congealed birth
moulded into an impractical jacket
Kirkirsasa's armpit tattoos
transfused into an overbearing gothic title
Tinrau's bird
taxidermised into a pretentious Preface
Puaknifo and Mostoto's fists
bloodied in Volume IX Footnote 8
Tiaftoto's oyster shell
shucked in a gloating Afterword

a research institution walks out of a village
                    boards its white flat bread boat
                    scholarly clothes
                    the sharpest alien tool
                    Copyright ©

Mere Taito, a Rotuman Islander from Rotuma, Fiji, moved to New Zealand in 2007. Mere’s poetry has a distinct political edge which she describes as having matured here in New Zealand. Her writing is often a satirical and biting response to the affairs of communities in her past and present. In a recently self-published collection of ten poems titled The Light and Dark in our Stuff, Mere pulls you through ‘dark matter’ that afflicts humanity and then ‘light matter’ to soften the blow. Her work has also appeared in LandfallA Fine Line and So Many Islands. Mere lives in Hamilton with her partner Neil and nephew Lapuke.

Mere comments: ‘The poem is a response to the copyrighting of Rotuman mythology by Wiley International. In the 1930s a missionary/linguist by the name of Churchward recorded a substantial collection of Rotuman myths and legends. These myths currently sit in the journal Oceania and are held in copyright by Wiley International. Copyrighting locks these myths. Access is restricted. On the Wiley Online Library users can choose to “Rent it for 48hrs for $6USD”, “Upload to the Cloud for $15USD” or download and print a “PDF for $38USD”. Mythology is traditional knowledge. Research and publishing institutions need to re-look at the way that they make traditional knowledge accessible to the communities they take from when they are done with their research. One courtesy hardcopy in a school library is not good enough. “Selling it at a much cheaper price” is quite frankly, insulting and unethical. Free these stories Wiley International. Place them on your Open Source platform’.

Poem source details >


Mere's Facebook page
So Many Islands anthology
Mere in interview with Vaughan Rapatahana
The Light and Dark in our Stuff reviewed on Scoop Review of Books
Review on Flaxroots Productions
Translated poem on Grădina Cu Lecturi