Poetry Shelf Monday Poem: Karlo Mila’s ‘Stretch Marks’

Stretch Marks

(20 Sep 2021)

On looking
at my naked body.
Knowing you will be
Looking. 

My body is ripped 
with silver linings.

Stretch marks. 

A weave of flex.
when my world got too big for me,
bearing babies
or burdens.

Stretch marks.
Invisible inked in skin.
Traces I needed to suddenly hide, 
Dive in, submerge into skin
safer unseen
from predator, prowler,
prey.

Oh luminous seal
with quick thick thighs
you dived underwater
thick-pelted, you hide,
Unseen.
Beached.

The loneliness of mammals. 

Alone in the deep blue deep.
Gestating to a saline rhythm .
All my own. 
All alone.
Skins grown
and shed.

Stretch marks.

A spider webbed weave
of vibrating threads.

Silks spun,
and undone.

The painful crack
of the shell of my understanding
breaking.

Growth.

Shedding full body armour
of weta skin, mine and others –
left behind –
with prayers on parting.

The coconut husk –
wringing cream and water
to try and see my future
in the milk of ancestral fluids.

The cocoon
of caterpillar storybooks
cake and pickle and pie,
so hungry.

The black butterflied chrysalis 
of love poetry written in my 30s.
That well written body indeed.

Here it is. 
Looking for love 
Same songs
different sounds.
Re-makes.
Re-takes.
Re-release. 
Re-mastered. 

I am always entranced 
by the acoustic version,
almost poetry. 

Sound healing.
Sexual healing.

I have been waiting for you so long,
Karakia even.
Hope. 
Asking.
Please.
It’s been too long.
Too alone.
I’m too human.

Across time and space,
He arrives, rain.
softly quoting hurricane.
He comes
in front of me,
sticky embryonic. 

Ultimate tōhu
of fertility. newness. rebirth.
remake. Remaster. 

We cross digital divides,
magic echnologies of presence.
wonder-lust, the marvellous.
the surreal sexuality of screens.

Missionary position
is my favourite way
to look at you.
Mirrored
Reflection 
You see
Beauty.
Speak it out loud.

Small scars on my body speak 
to trauma worn, scribbled on skin.
Stretch marks.
Paper thin.
Will you see me? My frailty?
Will you want? 

The small gods of chemistry
are king.

Will you want to
Come in?

Already I imagine you
in my mouth. Salty. Sweet. Big. Deep.

Oceanic. 

De-col. it’s everywhere.
Even in the seabed and foreshore of play… can I play? Can I say? 
Will you stay? 

Trust. in the 21st century 
of unconditional lovers
where it only lasts as long
as the longing.

I want nothing but.
Having settled for less.

I want no settler.
I want native. 
Natural. 
Ease. 

But these stretch marks speak to small anxieties, 
cartography of flesh.
I take a deep breath.
With these silver threads:
Tuia ki roto
Tuia ki waho
Tuia ki raro
Tuia ki runga

I stitch. I sew. I bind. 

Both of us
gasping for breath
in this ocean we have 
Leap of faithed 
into. 

Oh departing place 
of the spirits
watch over us.

Trust. 
Deepak recasts it as moving into the unknown 
beyond the prison of the past.
I listen to his lilting words:
“Today, I will step into the unknown.
I will relinquish the known.
By stepping into the unknown
I will enter in the field of unlimited possibilities.”

This is our place.
The field
beyond write and wrong.
Between hema and mata’u.
The field between other husband and other wife. 

The field between us.

There is no map-making to be had
using the small cursive script of the past. Prisons. 
I cast away my own incarcerated markings,
scribbles, notes, past poems, tiny wounded stories. 

I will give up the need to track-back
the way out
To tightly pencil a safe way in.
To re-make the boundaries.  To fortify.  
To try and control the way home.

I will leave the birds-eye to my ancestors,
keeping an ear open only
to the manu that tangi
keeping our forest alive.
This field.

I step, I step, 
Knowing I will be naked,
humbled, human, 
vulnerable, ashamed, 
afraid, and aroused,
I step, I step
into our field
of infinite possibility.

In this green grass,
I will lie
and meet you there.

Karlo Mila

Karlo Mila (MNZM) is an award winning Pasifika poet of Tongan / Palangi descent.  Her third poetry book “The Goddess Muscle” was released by Huia Publishers in 2020.  Her first book won the first best book award at the New Zealand literary awards in 2005.  She is a Mother, writer, researcher, creative, academic and activist.  Her day job is as the Programme Director of the Mana Moana Experience at Leadership New Zealand.  Karlo is the founder and creator of Mana Moana – aimed at elevating and harnessing indigenous Pacific knowledge for contemporary living and leadership. It is based on five years of postdoctoral research.  Karlo has three sons and lives in Auckland.

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