Celia travelled over 2000 kilometres
for four days to reach NZ shores.
It took her 93 years to return to Fiji.
Her story is one that refuses to fade from my retina.
Celia’s Pa has his whisky lined up again, he says,
the little girls will have their own men to take care of them one day.
He was gone by the time Celia began school aged 10.
Celia’s Ma waited under the coconut tree,
needle and thread in hand.
Everyone dies waiting.
The story travels by foreign tongue,
numerous incomprehensible physical gestures,
a lonely sigh
out of place
unwilling to chase the pace of New Zealand.
Celia stands in the kitchen of her
There is curry on the stove.
There are frangipani tucked behind wispy hair.
George, her husband, sways next to her,
dancing his hands upon delicate skinfolds.
He etches finger circles on the nape of her neck,
beard bristle tickles red cheeks.
Two children at work,
the others won’t be home until dinner.
Na Vale, Home.
He left quietly.
When Celia returned
there was no gravity left in her Kaikohe home.
Window paint peeled
as the walls crumbled and cried.
Her son’s skinny frame barely filled the casket.
Tapa cloths cover the walls.
Flower wreaths dress the halls.
Family catches the word by phone call.
In a wheelchair,
she cannot reach her child.
Her bones brittle,
he is lowered into the grave
and he will not grab her hand.
The room is 10 square feet,
a quarter of which is occupied by the bathroom.
Celia’s new Na Vale.
Bingo Thursday lunch,
New Zealand Woman’s delivered weekly
after Sunday communion.
Knobbly fingers turn large-print paperbacks cover to cover.
Only airy-fairy English romances stock the shelves,
Pasifika stories lost
below the ocean’s surface.
Her muscles seize with movement,
not a loss of memory.
Celia puts down the paperback.
Those stories have been imprinted over the veins in her wrist.
Over and over.
Again and again.
So much has been written over the margins of her stories.
She can no longer read her own writing.
The blue ink against caramel wrists,
smear into the waves that lapped against the shores of her homeland,
the waves that battered the boat across the South Pacific.
The next storytellers
will be revolutionaries.
Not conquered by their culture.
They don't have to have the right words,
because the next stories have come from long lines of oppression.
The next stories, voices and lives,
are those we have previously refused to hear.
Their stories told as they tilt their davui shells back to their ears.
Hands spread in the opposite of a fist.
Ruby Macomber is an aspiring New Zealand and Pasifika writer, and currently a student at Northcote College.