Part One: Tonga
While exposed to colonial forces, Tonga is the last remaining monarchy in the Pacific and every Tongan
Part Two: Tonga in the News
Air New Zealand says Tongans are quietly spoken but drink the bar dry
maybe it’s just a Tongan thing, like gold teeth.
I’m quietly spoken but drink the bar dry
and I’m hardly Tongan
But not straight down the middle though
all mixed in like
so it looks like something else
like if you were to mix peanut butter and jam in a glass jar
it would be pink-brown with raspberry pips and nutty bits.
Not stripes like the Australian product
that didn’t last long on the shelves
there was too much peanut butter in it.
The stripes only lasted the first couple of toasts
then after that it was just pink-brown mush in a glass jar.
No gold teeth though.
Part Three: Too Pretty
Some people say ‘you’re too pretty to be Tongan’, which is funny, because it’s usually Tongans who say it.
It is a short-cut to make a big distance between us and casually call me ‘palagi’ at the same time. I can
hardly see if they are still waving from that long shore far away where they are having an umu with family.
Feasting and belonging together.
But this time the umu is deeper in the ground than it should be
the food takes on the flavour of the dirt
I can see them eating pink gashes into the pig
which is the same colour as flesh-coloured
Eating, praying – ‘we thank you for our daily bread’
But there is pig juice to the root of fingers
so now they can be forced into tight holes
or slipped out of rings
Mmm boaka mmm
– you don’t eat meat do you?
‘No but some palagi’s do’
she eats bacon
with her flesh-coloured mouth
she said she heard the pigs crying once
before they were killed by the Tongans
‘They sounded like women’
I can remember eating pig trotters and loving the puffy succulence, sucking the yellow marrow out of
bones, but I gave up eating meat at sixteen. They thought I was crazy in Tonga. The only flesh I've eaten for
the last four years is fish and shellfish, although I pull the tongue (or root) out of mussels and the bags of
dark dirty stuff. Henry used to scoff mussels but he's stopped eating them lately. He says he's disgusted by
the gristly piles of parts that grow on the porcelain ledge of my plate. But it would be weird if I
disembowelled them too — he says.
Dad didn’t want me to stay with our family in Tonga because there was no shower, only a tin bucket. You
have a good job don't you? He said, Go stay in a resort. But I said no. On the first Saturday he went to the
market early and bought back ten crayfish. Auntie boiled them and they were lined up in the kitchen when I
got up for breakfast. There was a small female among them, Dad gently lifted her orange eggs and shook his
head – It wouldn't be allowed at home. I ate them every meal on white bread with butter and hot sweet
piglet on a spit it’s Christmas it was only alive three months but doesn’t accuse its eyes are dull black its
wince a fold of crackling its only resistance inedible hooves pointing dainty at the coals rising heat
curdles the grey summer air where the fence stops feet totter past the dog chained between the old house
and the new house those houses would get up and move away if they could stagger creaking down the
street or just swap places for a change of scenery looking down from above we would see them squatting
in newly fenced pens but there’s no point in climbing the trees are smaller every year December twenty-
fifth bright litter on muddy floorboards freshly broken toys and whipped cream gone greasy
Biography Simone Kaho
Simone Kaho is New Zealand poet of Tongan ancestry. She has appeared in scores of poetry shows including; The Kerouac Effect, Theradical Hobohemians, Spit it Out and is a former member of the Literrati. Her work has been published in JAAM, Turbine and The Dominion Post.