Jennifer Vehia Wheeler

Raw Fish

“Raw fish,” she said
My friend visiting Hawaiʻi from California
“I couldn’t eat it cause it was too early for raw fish.”

But being an Islander
Being Polynesian
Means it’s always the right time
for Raw Fish

Being Matutau

I’ve only met Grandpa Matutau once
In Moʻorea
when I was seven

He still lived in his house
That house next to my cousins,

Living on the land my family is from
The fenua that I come from

Their house in the countryside
with the deep greens of the
mountains behind them
and the sparkles of blue ocean in front

The water shallow, full of coral, eels, and fish

Those days in Moʻorea

I watched him from that house
as he walked through the water
throwing his net out into the sea
gathering dinner as he had been doing for years

Fish from that beach
my mother grew up on
my aunts and uncles grew up on

The fish they still eat today

They didn’t pay for food
except French bread loaves
and maybe chicken
from time to time

We went hiking behind the house too
into the hills

Banana trees as far as the eye could see

Dead trees next to thriving ones
green everywhere
brown, dead leaves everywhere
mushy path from mud and leaves

Mom and him talking
In French or Tahitian
Or both

Gathering bananas for the house

Always gathering food
Always fishing
Caring for the family
With everything the fenua has given us

detail of Diasporic Waters - Joy Enomoto - 2014
Baninnur: A Basket of Food

Jennifer Vehia Wheeler was born and raised in Waiau, central Oʻahu, but has roots in Afareaitu, Moʻorea, and California. Vehia has researched Pacific Island studies and political science at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and loves talking about politics and cultures of the Pacific. She is proud to call Hawaiʻi home and is dedicated to community work in the Islands.