new zealand electronic poetry centre



C H E R I E   B A R F O R D

Cherie Barford was born in 1960 to a German-Samoan mother and a Palagi father. She writes when she can and has been published here and there, and in 2001 and 2002 she was a guest poet at the Going West literary festival in Auckland. A New Zealand Arts Council grant has enabled her to complete ‘Westie File’, a collection of poems which she hopes will be published soon. Cherie lives with her children in West Auckland and currently works as the Literacy Co-ordinator for Waitake Adult Literacy Inc.

Eclipse Friday 23 November 1984

The radio told New Zealand
not to look at the sun

while my mother scrubbed
the shower-box
so she wouldn’t miss the eclipse
Sharon rang to say
that Southland was flooding
though the sky looked great
through strips of negative film

and interrupted the chapter on reprisals
                                                The part where
women with shaven heads were dragged
naked through liberated streets

while boys with gouged eyes went insane
because insects were sewn into the wounds

My God How can people? How can people . . . ?

I skipped the details to find
that the dead woman was identified
                                                        hours later
by a grieving husband who recognised her shoes
                                                              nothing else

and wondered why my friend who
loved women and painted their moods
had given me the book saying
                                               You must read it

Feeling disturbed I rose
to switch on the lights
because the day had turned dull
while my mother mopped the floor
                                                       snapping my fingers
at her expression

See – History happens all the time
The moment is gone yet memories remain

and she laughed saying
Isn’t it eerie?

as I remembered a man swimming
from a cave into an equator sun

I’m a Kiwi
Where are you from?
He’d replied distinctly –
My mother is French
My father was a German soldier
                                                   as if it really mattered

and I discovered much later
that details really do

Under a darkening sky
I thought of this beautiful man
and our vulnerable love
in my twenty-second summer

I’d never asked if his mother
had been dragged through streets
because his voice was soft
when he spoke of her
and that was my answer

One day I’d cried
because I felt he adored me
for my name
                      which stirred
some remembrance within him
when he loved me
So silly yet so real

The postcard of a village
in Alsace-Lorraine
                               still looks picturesque
though we stopped writing
after two years

today as the sun eclipses
I imagine him married
with gorgeous children

Wondering what our child
could have looked like

as I’ve done countless times
since he kissed into my hair
                                            the image of

a babe with my skin
your hair and eyes
our smile

I’d known that only
a wife who would stay
forever could have his child

and promises are useless
when you’re unsure

But right now
on this eclipsed day
the moments seem precious
the memories are mine

and my mother is all excited
because she saw the darkness



Last updated 04 July, 2004