Tusiata Avia



Nafanua and the New World

Nafanua talks about her body

Nafanua meets Mr Raytheon

Nafanua relates an incident from her childhood

Aunty Lapo`a calls Nafanua and talks about her holiday

Nafanua is an aeroplane



Nafanua and the New World


Nafanua’s old school mates planned to rob the New World, they sat at the tops of trees and planned: darkness, cigarettes, beer.
She said, You’ll never pull it off.
They didn’t.

Nafanua from nowhere driving out into the world as far away from Aranui as she can go
Nafanua from Pulotu driving out into the world and all the things that make her beautiful spin away like hubcaps

When her long dead children ask her, Nafanua, mother, what did you do with our lives? She will answer, Babies, I tucked you away so you would never be lost or hurt or boiled down for hubcap manufacture. I wrapped each one of you and put you in the sea and you learned to be red orange blue.

When the old people say to her, Nafanua, daughter, did we hurt you so bad? She will say I will not bow as I pass, you are dead, your legs are strong enough. Go catch the bus.

She does not think of her old school friends
she does not think of her family.

Nafanua on the other side of the world climbing into her Triumph
she covers the mirrors, pulls out the choke and roars off into the Va.


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Nafanua talks about her body


In my knees I have that disease
someone with careful fingers tries to pry it out
but my joints are secretive.

There is an apocathery somewhere with a cure
a bottle of thick glass with words about poison
about cause and cure.

In my hair I have someone with a rake making boundaries on my scalp
this way that way this way
the result will be great

like Entertainment Tonight
and my body, the one I will have to lose when I become an Amerikan
the one that fits into plane seats with real pain,
that body will have to go.

When I get to Amerika it will be unbuckled like saddlebags at the border
and like Miss Amerika, boiled down and nice and twang, I’ll hand over my visa
and they’ll say, Welcome, Leeza, we’ve prepared a place for you.


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Nafanua meets Mr Raytheon


Nafanua goes to Kitty O’Malley’s, it’s half way to St Patrick’s day in downtown Honolulu and grown men are walking behind toy ambulances. In the bar the band sings Scotland the Brave and the man from Raytheon explains why he’s not part of the war machine

He is not Louise Francesconi, President of Missile Systems – Strike Air to Air Exoatmospheric Kill Directed Energy Weapons – Louise Francesconi has burgundy hair

He tells her he likes the music but he feels he doesn’t fit in, Age he says, Fourty-five he says and takes off his hat and shows her his head

He is not a magnifying glass over the earth – Bringing Home the Promise of Missile Defense – a golden tower piercing the blue

You know you work for the Devil, she says. He doesn’t take offense. Outstanding he says, outstanding

He is not Bill Swanson, Chairman and CEO – white man black woman asian woman black man hispanic man equal opportunity affirmative action wide diversity american citizenship security clearance required

You know ten percent of the population here are military?, he says. Just enough to wipe out the natives, she says, should they rise up and make ma’a slings for hurling things

He is not Dual Mount Stinger: lightweight, fire-and-forget, two colour, short range, air defense missile, superior action at a fraction of the cost

Would you like a… I’m sure you’re a nice… I’m sorry our ways of life are not more… he smiles like Mission Solutions for the War Fighter, he smiles like Twenty-Two Point Two Billion Dollars

She waves her arms around like something big made of something sharp

This is a sign

This is a warning.


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Nafanua relates an incident from her childhood


we all slept on the floor/ all the old men and the young men and the women and the kids and the babies holding blunt objects and other instruments of violence/ we had to wrest them from each other to prevent the cracking of heads/ when we woke everyone was alive but us kids had gone

e, someone go an find dem
leai, aua, dey fink dey smart – let dem look for deir ownself
auoi!, va’ai, dey stole our canoe!
dat canoe, it belong to our ancestor!

there were some of us at the front some of us at the back/ we just lifted it up and ran it down the corridor and out into the street as if it were light as plastic/ they chased us but our legs were faster and their fury took their breath away/ they wanted to bash us really really bad


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Aunty Lapo’a calls Nafanua and talks about her holiday


E, suga, I’m love da Gol Coas
it’s mus be da rich peoples dey live dere, a?
I’m stay at da hotel for 10 day, so beauty
I’m go for da swim every days an I’m wear da fing for da swim
an da Palagi dey say, E, va’ai se fafige!

I’m have da nice figure when I’m young
ka’i e sexy, suga!
Why you laugh?
I’m da so beauty one
E, look at you suga, you eat too much!
das why you not even find da man.

What’s da use travel travel everywhere an no baby?
No husband, no baby, no one look after you
you jus fink you smart
even da Palagi dey get marry.


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Nafanua is an aeroplane


Nafanua says: I am an aeroplane and I am happy to be metal
I like my swollen belly, I like the way I feel against myself
I love the way I can take them all inside me like herds of swine
like the pope’s celestial gathering of souls that get to their heaven and say
I got it all so wrong

but there will no one to make recrimination cake
and it wont be fun to be righteous.

That’s when you know everything is getting better
the world will be ok, someone will marry me, I will not die with dog fur on my clothes

No, I will be big and grey and cold and as light as anything
people wont know me or they’ll say

See her, she’d be everything anyway
She’d fly better than people with wings.

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These poems are from Bloodclot, a loosely narrative series about the adventures of Nafanua, named after the ancient warrior / ruler / war goddess of Samoa.

New World: New Zealand supermarket chain
Aranui: New Zealand suburb
Pulotu: Samoan underworld
va: the void / the space between
leai, aua: no, don’t
va’ai: look
va’ai se fafige: look at that woman
suga: colloquial form of address to a female

A New Zealand Samoan, Tusiata Avia is a poet, performer and writer. Tusiata’s first book of poetry Wild Dogs Under My Skirt was published by Victoria University Press in 2004. Tusiata as much as being a poet for the page, is also a poet for the stage. She has performed her one- woman show, also called Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, since 2002 around New Zealand, in American Samoa, Germany, Austria, Russia and Hawai’i. Tusiata was the 2005 Fulbright-Creative New Zealand Pacific Writer in Residence at the University of Hawai’i. She has just been short-listed for the Prize in Modern Letters, the world’s biggest literary prize for emerging writers (worth $65,000). Tusiata is presently working on a new collection of poetry, Bloodclot.

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