new zealand electronic poetry centre




Selina Tusitala Marsh

‘dancing pili’ (for Lemi Ponifasio)


sipping bitter ava swooped before hesitant hands
fa’afetai tele lava – may God bless Mau
and those who partake in their creativity
appropriate solemnity spotlight
highlight this performance within performance
cupped with both hands
shell to mouth
eyes and eyes and eyes
rank and recognition
a Herald article, Samoa Observer, Samoa Times
Gulf News and Waiheke Weekly
rank and recognition and eyes and eyes and eyes
she only half knows

but Carol Hirshfield doesn’t believe in half and part
‘afa’ mirrored in ava
I am Maori Hirshfield stated
Its like being a little pregnant – you can’t
quoted the Herald
‘afa’ in ava
like siva except steps are copied not known
and hands mimic borrowed stories
stiffness a traitor
like a pili caught in head lights
white powder crouched man
naked in knowing
half wall crawl of black
jet engine noises drum in foreign in primal meaning
caved water droplets hollowing sound
mau dancers slow dance and sweat as
suited puppet natives jerk their siva too
others march in blue and white mau lavalava
white shirt curt hands stands attention
to Master’s voice
Lemi’s leading and pili’s pleading ignorance of this dance of death
of life of light of paradise

the ceremony ends
centred ava bowl moves into shadows
spotlight dims

she has a pili dancing in her heart