False Dawn


                       Where was I just now?
I was in my mum’s apartment and now
the rain’s coming down hard —
see how my mind wanders.

Mario is snoozing next to me in the passenger’s seat.
A faint halo is forming from the heat of his head as his face
sticks to the glass and bobs up and down when
my red Honda City drives over bumps in the road.
Above me the upholstery is starting to sag.

The rain is trying to get in.

A pocket of water dangles over my head like the sword of Damocles — 
threatening to burst.
I slap the roof of the car and the water shoots out the top — 
imagine the blowholes on dolphins and whales.
The roads heading into Greytown are flooding.

The gutters are swelling.

My windscreen wipers are whirring on full blast.
I have to swerve to avoid shallow pools starting to form
around street corners and roundabouts.
Even in the fading light Greytown looks like a colonial stronghold.
Like geeze, they’re not even trying to be subtle about it.

It reeks of old money.

The perfectly curated shop fronts —
the bakeries, the delis, the cafes, the boutiques,
the home goods stores, the yoga studios …
They’ve all got that Victorian look down to a T.
Modern colonials keeping up with the times.

I drive past a store called Nirvana Interiors and that’s all that needs to be said about that. 

But we are used to white people coming over on boats unannounced too. 
First the Portuguese came and set up a port, so we picked up our 
capital and moved the hills.
And when we asked the Dutch to come help and, don’t get me wrong, they did 
a fantastic job, but then afterwards they decided to take over instead.

I mean where would be if the British didn’t drink so much of our tea?

When are we supposed to be getting our share?
Did they make some miscalculations?
Did they forget to carry the one?
Apē salli apiṭa denna ko

I’m starting to think there’s nothing common about the Common-wealth at all.
Like maybe they don’t have our best interests at heart.
I wonder what Greytown and Governor George Grey would 
make of a person like me.
Sure, I am light skinned but am I light skinned enough? 

At least here, I know where I stand. 

Maybe outright rejection is better than lukewarm acceptance?
Maybe absolute misunderstanding from people who do harm is better
than shallow understanding from people of good will?
Maybe, this is the flavour of white supremacy I prefer the most?
I mean, how lucky am I that I have a choice, right?

At least here it’s a kind I can see; a kind I can trust
to let me know I’m not actually crazy.
A kind I much prefer to the subtle and insidious kind you find in the cities.
A kind that makes me paranoid and mistrustful.
You know, the systemic, academic, institutional kind. 

At which point of my assimilation am I to understand the ironic racist?

At least here, in this hedge-trimmed town, I know what I’m up against.
I know where the gatekeepers live.
At least here, I can bring all my uncles and aunties and cousins and grannies and nannies and
niblings and open a dairy or something.
So we can spice up the community one bag of bhuja mix at a time.

You see how my mind wanders.
Mario is still snoozing in the seat next to me and
we still have a quarter tank of petrol left, so we should be good.
I slap the roof of the car.
The rain is still coming down.

I’m driving through Greytown with no intention of stopping.



romesh dissanayake is a poet, writer, chef and artist based in Te Whanganui-a-Tara. His work has appeared in The Spinoff, Pantograph Punch, Stuff, Enjoy Contemporary Art Space and A Clear Dawn: An anthology of emerging Asian New Zealand writers. He has worked at Rita in Aro Valley and Mabel’s Burmese Eat & Drink shop.