‘On Having My Card Decline at Countdown’ by Amber Esau
The checkout girl dropped the Nashi pears in with the dried goods and they’ll probably bruise. Do the job properly mate. I think she’s in the sixth form but you can never really tell these days even though I haven’t been out of high school long enough to get away with thinking that. A man in line at the next counter over holds his baby against his shoulder so that she’s facing me. Her milky spit dribbles down her dad’s back in time with the beeping of the wiry haired checkout girl. Louise, as her name tag reads, calls the total and I fumble around in my bag for my wallet. My least favourite part is finding it. My boyfriend says that I buy too much food for us but he’s never seen how my family has to shop. I pull my card out, swipe and punch in the pin. The blue digital daggers of shame strike up on the screen and I start sweat-shaking. I often panic, like a lot of people, about being too broke for everyone.
Growing up in a house with no walls, sharing is expected and enforced by the way the air gels everything in place. The TV, the bodies, the sun slicing in through only the kitchen window at half past one; each finds themselves stretched amongst many hands. Everything is defined by relation. As the Samoan poet and novelist Albert Wendt writes: “We can only be ourselves linked to everyone and everything else in the Va, the Unity-that-is-All and Now.”
This is a fabulous read. A timely read. Rest of essay at Horoeka Reading here
Photo credit: Christina Pataialii
and leave behind
pinch at the waist
and I’ve noticed
that pray like cracked tar rising.
No one came for me tonight
so I run to them
cigarette chopped between
even if it’s only in streetlight.
I can hear the ocean
in my mouth
as I walk to New(York-Lynn)
in the dark
swishing with va’a jaw
waiting on the rise.
Author’s note: The main road near my street is in a constant state of road works and I became interested in the rubble on a lot of the sidewalks. To me it sounded like walking on shells and in a way it became a sort of suburban sea. The word Va’a means canoe in Samoan and I feel like having a Va’a jaw is about movements between locating and dislocating yourself within your own sense of language as an almost reactionary element of physical location (in New Zealand and the wider world.)
Author’s Bio: Amber is a Samoan/Maori/Irish poet and aspiring novelist doing her final year of the Creative Writing degree at Manukau Institute of Technology. She has been published in the journals Ora Nui, Blackmailpress, ika, Hawaii Review and Landfall and will appear in the Maori poetry anthology Puna Wai Kōrero to be published later this year by Auckland University Press.
Paula’s note: Sound is what first hits you as you read this poem: the pitch, the chords, the beat. There is the way words shimmy together (‘crunch kiss’) and the way words shimmy apart (‘pinch’). A semicolon is carried over like a protagonist in the ambulatory beat — punctuation no longer invisible stitching. This poem brings every lucid detail to walking down the road yet walking down the road is not smooth sailing. I was reminded of Gertrude Stein as I read this and the way she breaks up language and puts it back together in ways that can be disconcerting, disconnecting, reconnecting, reasserting. This is that kind of walk. Amber’s line, ‘echo/ in canon’ resonates in my ear as echoing canon. There is the jarring step from New Lynn to New York. Similes lift and surprise (‘orange peels/ that pray like cracked tar rising’). This a walking poem that startles and cracks and never stops moving. I love it!
An exciting group of Māori poets – several of the country’s leading poets and some emerging writers – will come together to celebrate Matariki with readings and korero at a free event on Saturday June 28.
Māori Poets Celebrate Matariki features Ben Brown from Lyttelton, Apirana Taylor from Kapiti, with Auckland’s own Robert Sullivan, and social historian, novelist and poet, Kelly Ana Morey, from Mangawhai. It also features writer Te Awhina Arahanga, publisher and poet Kiri Piahana-Wong, and an emerging young poet Amber Esau.
This is a rare opportunity to hear some of the leading Māori poets in Aotearoa today, together with the next generation of talented young writers. It is a free event, part of the 2014 Matariki Festival, supported by Auckland Council and the Michael King Writers’ Centre.
Where: Depot Artspace, 28 Clarence St, Devonport, Auckland
When: Saturday, June 28, 2014, 4 pm