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Ruby Solly

The Machete

At six, you drive me three hours inland to see the national ballet.
You tell me it takes ten thousand hours to get onto the stage
and I feel the weight of ten thousand hours, pressing me
like a flower under a book
too difficult for me to read yet.

When we get home, through my window I watch you take your rusty machete.
Watch you press it to its grindstone,
see the push and pull of preparation bubbling under your skin.
Carving the air with its blade as you move towards gorse and blackberry,
invading your native Eden.

I fog the glass with the anticipation of slashing, tiptoe from my hiding place
towards the door as you close your eyes to feel the current of the air.
You lift me up and press my hand firmly into the handle,
my bare legs dangling above our tiny forest of black, yellow and green
as we conduct the air with the edge of your blade.
Your hand tightening around me, with each cut you make.

You tell me that it takes ten thousand hours to be an expert,
And I quit ballet the following year.
You tell me that I can have my own machete at fifteen.
Pāpā, I am still waiting to inherit your blade.

Ruby Solly is a 22-year-old Ngāi Tahu musician and writer. She has been published in Landfall, Starling and Mimicry, amongst others. She is currently completing a masters of music therapy and should be completing her exegesis on her use of taonga pūoro within music therapy. 

Ruby was a part of the LitCrawl x Starling 2018 micro-residency programme, where six young writers were hosted by Wellington galleries over the weekend of 10-11 November to work on a current creative project. Ruby was in residence at Bowen Galleries, where she worked on expanding a suite of poems entitled Toku Pāpā that she began at the International Institute of Modern Letters course convened by Tina Makareti focusing on Māori and Pasifika writing. Toku Pāpā concerns how a Māori identity is explored and nourished through family connections and the tensions and releases that this provides.