NAFANUA PURCELL KERSEL
I will not let my pen write your name
to invoke you in black cursive
and blot ink on my thickened skin.
I will grow babies and vegetables
swearing teenagers and stone-fruit trees
bottle their sweetness for my winter.
I will chase toddlers and follow slugs
dig out splinters, nits, thorns and grassweed
I’ll pinch out, stake up, trellis over.
I will not dare a pause, a rose,
something on paper to meddle with me,
poke my side and ask, ‘Why so busy?’
I will dry leaves for tea and seasoning
fuss over pumpkins and baby teeth
rub pith and grind my own grit.
I will swill wine to empty my sleep
smoke, sweat and sweep you under the house.
No pain, no pain, no twisted remains.
I will make mud pies and crocheted hats.
Sauerkrauted, playdoughed, sourdoughed,
tan-skinned, heavy-muscled, big-brained kids.
I will knot your name three times with cord
walk widdershins around your memory
grow space and tend pages, struck free of you.
Note: ‘Protection Order’ borrows the line ‘A pause, a rose, something on paper’ from My Life by Lynn Hejinian.
Grandma Lessons: Kitchen
If you find the kids fighting in the afternoon
give them something warm and sweet, soon.
If you make a good pie crust, you can have an average filling
but not the other way around.
If you want it to cool quick,
tip the tea from cup to cup, holding it high up.
If you want flavour, cook the bones;
if you want fragrance, add a lemon leaf.
If you make koko alaisa using koko pālagi,
make sure to warn the people eating it.
If you time your cook for when you want the kids home
they will follow the smell, and wash the dishes.
If you want to eat properly, use your hands.
If you then put your fingers into the shared food pot
you’ll get a smack on the hand because the food will go mafu.
If you want to cook well,
cook enough for your neighbours.
If you want to learn by heart,
be still and watch my hands.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Nafanua Purcell Kersel has been grafted from the villages of Faleālupo-tai, Mosula, Malaelā, Satufia and Tuaefu in Samoa. Raised in Te Whanganui-a-Tara, she is now based in Te Matau-a-Māui where she raises three children, many animals and her voice. She recently completed an MA in Creative Writing at Te Pūtahi Tuhi Auaha o Te Ao, IIML and was the recipient of the 2022 Biggs Family Prize in Poetry with her collection, Black Sugarcane.