right back in her face

Breathing exercises are so passé unless you know about naked lungs, like, out of the body. Like sheep's lungs, in science class. They were big, about the size I imagine a human's to be, three fists in length, floppy with tubes. Mrs Grant brought them in. Our Australian third-form teacher, hopelessly uncool, for the way she said scho-Ool, the helplessly spreading wet patches on all her clothes even the sleeveless denim dress in summer, her dry wrinkled lips about to bust open and bleed, and her wispy orange-grey hair flying away with exasperation. She knew we didn't like her, and likewise. That day she took a tube, inserted it into the windpipe (no gloves) and blew into the sheep's lungs. A revelation. These dull grey lungs were the most responsive thing I've ever seen. They absorbed Mrs Grant's breath deeply, not into a ballooning empty space, as I thought lungs did, like hotties, but into every cell, in my memory they turned pink, in my memory, I saw shadows of spirals, deep in the pink, shiver. Sheep's lung is dense tissue, like sponge, one of the most complex organs in the body. Its material designed to receive air and transform it; a singular purpose. It was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen, better than a flower, or a whole field of flowers. Then Mrs Grant took her lips off the plastic tube and the lungs blew the air right back in her face.

Simone Kaho is a Tongan and Pākehā poet, creative non-fiction writer, and director. Her first poetry collection, Lucky Punch, was published in 2016 (Anahera Press). She has an MA in poetry from Te Herenga Waka's International Institute of Modern Letters (IIML) and was named the IIML Emerging Pasifika Writer in Residence for 2022. Simone directed the 2019 web series Conversations for E-Tangata and now works as a writer/director for Tagata Pasifika. She is an active voice in Alison Mau's #metooNZ project.

​Poem source details >


WAKA (E-Tangata, 2021 web series)
HEAL! (Saufo`i Press, 2022)