Daren Kamali

Aotearoa / New Zealand
Roots/Routes of the Dalo plant
(the migration)

Its origin
tracks back
50,000 years
across Pacific waters
from somewhere in South East Asia
A journey
from island to island
upstream through valley
aimless – soulless – nameless
planted in qele
replanted in plots
founded on soapstone
kumala, yams, tavioka, and dalo
growing tall in papas teitei
on top hill of fortress
feeding the barrack people
crops harvested to feed the koro
even our Indian neighbors
with their spicy curry
cooked in Bombay pots
but when the dalo
overflows with starch
it is used to make
yummy fekei from Rotuma
stories told by papa
from Uvea mo Futuna
lived through nana
Fiji-born Samoan
Never been to Sāmoa
roots carried by ancestors’ ships
strangers foot tread ancient grounds
ancient tongues speak of migration
not only by people
animals and plants alike
like the mongoose
and the flying fox
the kava plants of Taveuni
Coconuts from the
copra plantations of Levuka
ancestral pathways

Nurtured by old hands
nourishes our villagers
once were cannibals
giving them vision to see
the difference between
savages and colonizers
colonizing them
It was the rats they brought
that contaminated our plants
transporting sugar cane
to the sugar city
on the sugar train
indentured laborers buy
Sir Arthur Gordon
a loaf of bread
from the hot bread kitchen
in Samabula
he loves it with
Rewa butter and sweet black tea
that was all it took for the native girl
to forget her roots
lose her religion
and sell herself to the night
Kerosene and burnt coconut oil
in the air
reminds me of home
soaking into fond memories
like poison in a bottle
That’s how he was brought up
Military barracks
side by side
all in a row
on the heights of Tubou
barracks made of concrete
bomb shelter blocks
sheltering soldiers from the storm
of rage
men loving anger
and demons of war
haunting families
drunk, disgusting
lost heroes
roaming at night
merciless in sorrow
shouting at the ancestors
scaring women and children
old people shiver in fear
they all pray
for the plantations to grow
dalo like the old days

It is here, where it was born

Baninnur: A Basket of Food

Daren Kamali is an International Pacific poet, author, teacher, and artist of Fijian/Wallis and Futuna ancestry. In 1992, he migrated to New Zealand where he lives with his partner Grace Taylor and his two children. He is co-director of the Pacific arts company Niu Navigations. He recently completed a bachelor’s degree in creative writing from the Manukau Institute of Technology. His first book and CD, Tales, Poems and Songs from the Underwater World (2011), is self-published and was translated into Ukrainian by Krok Publishers in 2013. Since 1999, Daren has performed on stages in Aotearoa/New Zealand, Australia, continental United States, Hawaiʻi, Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga, Rarotonga, Palau, Ukraine, London, and Dubai. “My dream is to take Pacific poetry as far and wide as possible.”

detail of Diasporic Waters - Joy Enomoto - 2014