Teresia Teaiwa

Aotearoa / New Zealand
porirua market with susanna and jessie, 2009

too early in the morning for jessie
but she manages to smile
we go to market in porirua
to bring kanaky closer

susanna loves the polynesian music and the bustling brown
breakfast is donuts from patelisio’s stand—five for a dollar
we get tea, milo, coffee from the māori guy selling his boil-up
beef on sticks from a malaysian stall
we sit, eat, sigh in unison

noa and jessie giggle at a street preacher—thin young pālagi man
susanna recounts emails recently received
a nephew has died
he had taught her how to plant yams
had given her hope for the next crop—next generation

let’s try a rhizome theory of revolution:
tuaine asks “what are you doing here?”
and i say “this is home”

at porirua market we buy vegetables and fruit, fish, flowers
yes, cash passes from hand to hand
and we do drive back to wellington
but this is a kind of pilgrimage
and we show devotion to the
shouldertoshoulderbustlingbrown and theblareofzipso
that can bring kanaky closer

past struggles worth each bead of brine each bloody tear
because here you can meet bernard narokobi
who wrote his country’s constitution
and is as humble now as he was when he wrote it

so we think of yams even as we purchase red potatoes
for this rhizome theory of a revolution that will not be commodified
but humanized and realized in the next crop—next generation

jessie and noa giggle
their mothers smile
not too early: on time

a trip to market with margaret, 2007

(buaniviti)  it’s a bit of a
conceit, buying ourselves leis,
but who could resist?

(chillies)     the red heaps call me
i am drawn to their fire
i long for their burn

(nama)        o, give me these grapes
any day! i prefer salt
to sweets on the vine

(vasua)       lips, gonads and a
heart: we take cruel pleasure
in delicacy

(cawaki)     dad says, looks like poo!
i say, it tastes like heaven,
so just close your eyes.

(manā)        mud crabs don’t taste like
their name: hard shells hide sweet flesh,
market women know.

(oops!)       i have to confess
i prefer palusami
the samoan way

(kakana dina)      wow! taro, uvi,
cassava, already cooked
and sold by the bag!

(bila and vutu)    secret recipe
for happiness: roast vutu
and eat with bila.

(ivi)   the trick is to buy
them before they get slimy;
eat slow, prevent farts.

(sila) steamed and roasted so
well, husks yellow and peal easy:
for golden kernels.

(on the list)margaret buys veggies,
fruit: two sticks celery, beans,
bananas, melon.

(grapes)     muslim woman sells
chilled grapes imported from the
states. taste it, she says.

(maths)      chinese vendor’s son,
class 3 this year, calculates
his future with crops.

(barrow boys)     nemani is twelve,
starts at waidina this year.
barrow helps with fees

(sivaro)      i wanted to know
what it was. asked nemani.
passing boy answered.

(vakalolo)  plastic replaces
banana leaves, but not my
affection for you.

(paidar)      market taxis don’t
like women who live in town:
no short runs. we walk.

Baninnur: A Basket of Food

Teresia Teaiwa is an educator, academic, and poet. Born in Honolulu, raised in Fiji, of Kiribati and African American heritage, she now lives in Aotearoa/New Zealand, where she teaches in the Pacific Studies program at Victoria University of Wellington.

detail of Diasporic Waters - Joy Enomoto - 2014