Poem Friday: Tusiata Avia’s ‘Wairua Road’ — makes the idea of home sharp and vital

Performance photo Tusiata Avia[1]


Wairua Road

The Spirits love me so much they sent all the people in Aranui to be my friends or my parents.

We all walk the Big Path from Cashmere to the sea.

We run like lawnmowers on each others feet.

The Spirits rise up out of the footpath outside the Hampshire St pub. The space that a bomb took out of the ground walks about on a pair of legs with a ghost looking out.

The Spirits love me so much they turn me into a plastic bag.

I will live in a whale or a shrimp and kill it.

My mother rises up out of the lino wringing and wringing the blood from her hands.

The Spirits love me so much we all sit round to watch the sparklers in my brain, the beautiful sunset, the campfire burning, the jerking of my body.

My father rises up out of the carpet and down I go, like knees, like beetroot juice in the whitest of frigidaires.

The Spirits of the Big Path love me so much they have driven me back up to this house.

If the Spirits didn’t love me, I could live in a dog, in a wife, in a house, in a merivale or on some other shining path, far away from the hungry road.


Tusiata Avia has published two books of poetry, Wild Dogs Under My Skirt and Bloodclot and two children’s books. Known for her dynamic performance style she has also written and performed a one-woman poetry show, also called Wild Dogs Under My Skirt, which toured internationally. Tusiata has held a number of writers’ residencies and is regularly published in international literary journals and invited to appear at writers’ festivals around the globe. In 2013 Tusiata was the recipient of the Janet Frame Literary Trust Award. In October 2014 she will perform as part of ‘New Zealand in Edinburgh’.

Author Notes: Aranui: great path.
Aranui is one of the most deprived suburbs of Christchurch, Hampshire St is one of its most troubled areas.  Merivale is one of the wealthiest suburbs in Christchurch. This poem is published in Takahe 72.

Paula’s Notes: Tusiata’s poem reads like a chant and if you’ve been lucky enough to hear her perform you hear the sound of her voice as you read it. This poem takes you to a specific place — yet it takes you into the way place is a layering of physical and nonphysical things. What you see and feel and what you don’t see and feel. Layered and layering. How this specific place means different things to different people. How this is the place devastated by an earthquake and how people are connected and divided by what they have and have not, by what they have lost and lost not. What happens to love? How does love carry you on its back to the sea? Or the poet carry love? Tusiata’s is a voice on edge, edging you to see and feel the difficulty — clues are laid like tracks to the private and the public pain. It is also a poem that is tongue in cheek (‘If the Spirits didn’t love me, I could live in a dog’). It is surprising and tough and sings out with a joy of words, that makes the idea of home sharp and vital. Like much of what Tusiata writes, it affects me deeply. I am in the grip of this poem, and I adore it.

1 thought on “Poem Friday: Tusiata Avia’s ‘Wairua Road’ — makes the idea of home sharp and vital

  1. Pingback: Poetry Shelf Audio Spot – a mini performance from Tusiata Avia – Ma’i Maliu I and II | NZ Poetry Shelf

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