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Alofa at the Vai

First day in Sā
Us fia-palagis go swimming
At the vai during low tide:
My four younger sisters,
Two uluka’e brothers walk behind us.
 
Our cuz from NZ,
Teine aulelei with her,
Maka povi – big eyes like a cow,
Alofa.
 
We sweat Victoria’s Secret body spray and mozzie repellent.
Jandals from Mama’s shop slapping into gravel.
Seevae kosokoso / dragging feet through
volcanic paths and rotten fruit
in pregnant air between rainforests and
beaches of black rock beds.
 
Only men without chief titles come to the vai.
They throw sea mud and algae blooms at each other.
Women with malu beating Sunday’s best against boulders.
 
‘Shhhh, there’s Tautala’s oldest daughter.’
‘Still not married?’
‘Is she lesbian?’
 
The malu women scrub hard,
staring like the jealous aitu,
which steals away girls
who don’t tie their hair up.
 
‘Shhhhh that’s the life in Australia, ah.’
 
My sisters adjust singlet straps to fix tan lines
while brave village boys lick lips
inviting wide-eyed Alofa to the cave
during low tide.
 
Alofa throws her voice so that I don’t tell her off
‘Shhhhhh, leai.’
 
The malu women pack up their washing as more men descend.
Men who were building a new church,
dusting hands off on breadfruit leaves,
before diving off soapsud boulders.
 
‘Yo i think it’s time to go home…’
‘I’m…’
 
Alofa asks for five more minutes
but the low hum of a conch shell up in the mountains 
finds us at the water.
 
Uncle comes down to the vai.
‘Curfew,’ he says, ‘You wait…’.
 
Alofa glances at the moekolo under her thick eyelashes,
her white cheeks red with this vai time.
My brothers staunch, ‘But this is Sā, you eggs, no one knows us here.’
 
When the conch shell rings out again
we trudge home clothes plastered.
Alofa sighs.
 
Aunty Vaai saw Alofa outside Mama’s shop on our last night.
‘Kaukalaikiki !’/ Cheeky girl!
‘Auuuu,’ Aunty Vaai licks her gold tooth when she cackles.
                        ‘Shhhh that’s the life in Australia, ah.’

 

This poem was produced as part of a series, published in partnership with Sweatshop: Western Sydney Literacy Movement. Editorial support for each poem published in A Sweatshop in a Red Room, has been provided by Winnie Dunn.

Go to Christine Afoa's profile to read more poems