new zealand electronic poetry centre

John Puhiatau Pule

online works

From ‘Thirty Songs of Love and Life by the Nineteenth-Century Poet Tomai, of Liku’
in The Shark That Ate the Sun (Penguin, 1992)

The new missionary and his wife have
arrived to a great welcome in
the capital, dance groups, umu, gifts.
They have a four year old girl who is
like a ghost with deep blue eyes,
her hair is like wire bent around
a tree a hundred times.
The mother chose ten maidens who
pamper her fragile soul that is
weakened by heat and flies that love
her mouth. She is olive, small hands
and a mouth big as a horse.
The husband, with a beard that pulls
his face down like a plant struck
back by lack of water, meets the elders
who are sure they meet God’s
representative from golden heaven.
But it is his ears that flap in the wind
when he talks through a translator that show
his teeth, brown like shit.
I met the wife one evening as I was
on my way home, after helping my
uncle sell four sacks of copra.
She could not help looking at my
fine necklace of sharks’ teeth, so I
offered to show her where I go fishing,
which I did the next morning when she came
to Liku on a donkey.
I sent her maid away to fetch water, these
palagi are always thirsty. She had shed her
clothes and was in the waves drinking the sun.
I swim under water and hold her legs
while I kiss the earth. She struggled like a fish
harpooned when I entered from behind.
And her body shivered as we moved for a long time.
In the sea it is hot. I swim away to shore.
I leave her out there looking up to God, although
she smiles the glow on her face
is as savage as my uncle.


John Pule

Last updated 25 September, 2005