‘Tohunga,’ a Poem by Tayi Tibble

"the world / is getting unbearably hot"

September 18, 2019  By Tayi Tibble

Visionary like my ancestors I / saw a sky of whales / a pale people / like my ancestors I / inhaled the bible / swallowed the rifle like / an 8 inch cock / whateva. / Like Donna Summer I swirled / in a floor length dress / said I love to love / I love to fuck / but just like my ancestors knew / to you I was a savage wild jasmine / a$$ out / blacked out / with dollar signs / feline like a bengal tiger and it’s true / that anyone on their hands and knees / is essentially a praying animal.

Radical like my ancestors I / saw the flower child / the wasted liberals / and my prehistoric / flare wearing prince / and like my ancestors I / kissed and kissed and kissed / and tasted / an entire lifetime of taking advantage and / being aware of it. / So at least / when my dress hits the floor / like molting bark / your eyes follow / and I can interpret / your fixation as shame. / Are you sorry? / And what does that say about me / if I think even a suggestion / of an apology is sexy? So like / my ancestors I / sculpt you from the dirt until you rise I / make you meet my eye / then suck you all up / with a slurp like a kina. / That’s Te Hei Mauri Ora. / Just like Papatuanuku / I breathe life / which is why my mother tongue spits praises despite / it’s history of whippings / I say

good on you babe. / You got what you wanted. / The juicy earth / the factoried women / the rivers / the mountains / all bowing for you. / I’m proud of you / the way you erected / monuments in your image / so foreign so / violently unimagined / just like my ancestors I / couldn’t even have even dreamed it. / Pou after pou / of grey and glass / cracking the sky and the sky / was full of whales. / Wow I say / good on you babe / then I spread / my hair all over the hotel pillow / because I love a winner. And you / hit the jackpot with me / with all us silly girls / for believing you were god / for as long as we did. / But now /

the atmosphere is betraying you / and you are reddening in places / where I can bare it. / A warrior / like my ancestors I survived / annihilation. And the awa / that run beneath my skin / have not been lapped dry / just yet / and you can see it all / the unpanned gold / the wild pounamu / the thrashing tuna / family jewels / you can never have / taonga / you can never taste / forbidden fruits / reserved for me / are you afraid again? / like you were of Eve? / the world / is getting unbearably hot / but so am I / and so is she.

Tayi Tibble
Tayi Tibble
Tayi Tibble (Te Whānau ā Apanui/Ngāti Porou) was born in 1995 and lives in Wellington, New Zealand. In 2017, she completed a master’s degree in creative writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Victoria University of Wellington, where she was the recipient of the Adam Foundation Prize in Creative Writing. Her debut book of poetry, Poukahangatus is forthcoming from Knopf in July 2022. Her second book of poetry, Rangikura, will be published in the United States in 2023.

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