blackmail press 16
Serie Barford
new zealand
Rain on Ouvea


before it rains the humid air freshens

teasing languid sheets hammock-
strung between leaning palms

their flowers baubles on spikes
the three-note bird can’t resist


when it rains the wind strengthens

driving droplets through shutters
with papillon de nuit

their ragged wings
desperate for shelter
but where to go?

the croissant-shaped island
pitter-patters all over

and outside the kitchen window
rivulets course papaya
dangling green and gold


after the rain turtles abandon trous
for the darkening open sea

and gregarious parakeets
strut beneath bougainvillea

the scarlet splashes above their beaks
as splendid as the dripping harlequin blooms

Ouvea  is one of the Loyalty Islands  It gets its name from the Wallisian word uvea, 
   meaning ‘island far away’
papillon de nuit – night butterflies i.e. moths
* trous – waterholes

What are ya?

the mixed-blood brood is getting restless

not truly this     not truly that

we reconcile opposite tendencies
in the disquiet of no-man’s-land

frayed by the constant unraveling
of our features, notions and words
by the pedigree gate-keepers

who sort us out
taro or spud
for the gobbling

while we stagger about

the mother-axis twirling
between archipelagoes

the father-axis spinning
between hemispheres

Tele I’a Ole Sami

this fish is swimming upstream
and the woman on the phone
says she can change my ethnicity
with the click of her mouse

What are ya?

I’m a daughter of the universe

Can ya be more specific?

I’m Pasifika

That’s not a category
on the medical register
Let’s try ‘other’

Your doctor’s sorted you lot out
He’s ticked the Samoan box
for some of your family
European for the rest

The thing is  I say
in my family we are brown
olive, freckled and white
from the same bed

Oh   Right   Well

We could tick two boxes
European and Samoan
Will that do?

I can live with that
Click your screen and save me!

*Tele I’a Ole Sami –There’s Plenty of Fish in the Sea – a song made famous by Bill Sevesi

Serie (Cherie) Barford was born in 1960 to a German-Samoan mother and a Palagi father. She grew up in West Auckland in the days when Te Atatu Peninsula had gravel roads, rabbits running over farmland and a working class community. Serie is an ex-school teacher and works in the field of Adult and Commuity Education in Waitakere City.
Most recently published in Snorkel, Fugacity, Trout 12 and Whetu Moana, Tinfish.
One of her poems featured in Poets Corner on Artville in 2006.


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