Serena Simmons

A Controlled Diet

I grew up on
Matson cargo
ocean pull
and GMO fed fields

Cheese and toast
is my favorite microwavable,
my mother would make it
for me in the morning
when I was little
keep it in long enough
for the cheese to start bubbling,
mechanical sun melting
my breakfast

I tell you
Nothing tastes
quite like it

Even now,
twenty years old
when I am re-posting photos
and campaigns of anti-GMO causes
on Facebook,
calling for community gardens instead of
mass production,
I still find myself
in the dairy section of Food Pantry
throwing Tillamook cheddar
and Arnold’s Whole Wheat into my basket,
stomping my foot in line
impatiently waiting for my card to approve,
remembering every shortcut home.

Do not believe anyone
who tells you
decolonization is easy.

My stomach craves
only the most American.
When offered Hangi
Lau lau
kai moana,
I eat out of respect
and buy a Swanson lasagna later.

I have yet
to be full on
the food of my people.

I have yet
to call this kōpū

I, like many of us in Oceania,
still have a long way to go
and the continent
is not slowing the shipments
any time soon.

Te Moana

Some days I can’t help it,
when every ship in my heart goes belly up
I have no choice but to sit down,
dust off my laptop
and try to spell out the splinters in print.

This ocean sings of many bones
our ancestors and theirs,
whakapapa braided into our atolls
mountains, hips, poems,
moʻolelo hiding in humans and gourds
mana racing through lips and prows,
people too rich with love for home.

I confess
every attempt at a proper prayer for our lands
has never felt good enough . . .
our region deserves only sweet things.

detail of Diasporic Waters - Joy Enomoto - 2014
Baninnur: A Basket of Food
Serena Ngaio Simmons is a writer of Māori and European descent born and raised on O‘ahu. Serena competed in the Brave New Voices international spoken word competition for youth in 2011 and 2012. Serena is currently pursuing her bachelor’s degree in English at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Serena is an active member in the spoken word “scene” on Oʻahu, attending monthly slams and sharing. Poetry and shows keep her going through the semester.