blackmail press 21
Cedric Mamoe
Samoa/ New Zealand

crossed cultures - special issue
Fresh Off Da Boat: Verse One

The strangers came knocking, saying
My little brother went to the kitchen
Dished out two bowls of cocoa-rice
Came back and gave it to them
Their eyes wide open – surprised? Overwhelmed?
Trick-or-treat? This is definitely a f.o.b trick

The next year we knew it is call Halloween
We asked our parents for money to buy lollies
My mum said, “Why buy lollies for strangers?”
I can’t remember what my dad said
At the end we couldn’t afford lollies
So my little sister made a neat sign
Stuck it up the front door
We come from Samoa, we don’t do Halloween

The next year we got lollies
We bought them ourselves
My parents didn’t mind
If we gave them away to strangers
We bought chocolate lollies
We thought we'd taste some first
In case a stranger gets poisoned
We did intend to leave some for the strangers, but
…So my sister made another neat sign
Stuck it up the front door
From Samoa, we don’t do Halloween

Wished we'd had cocoa-rice for a back-up

Fresh Off Da Boat: Verse 2

Mum bought grandma a cell-phone
Mum kept ringing her for weeks
Grandma wouldn’t answer
Until uncle called and said
“Grandma turns it off to save power”

It must’ve been a good two minutes
We haven’t crashed or collided yet…
Until someone had the guts to tell dad
“Dad, this is New Zealand…
We’re on the wrong side of the road”

We anticipated our first human winter
We’ve seen it in the movies
And we always like cold ice-cream
But winter…that was different
We were cuddling hot water-bottles in our sleep

We didn’t go walkabouts on Saturdays
Uncle did that once and it wasn’t funny
He went one morning to buy milk
Came back late afternoon – tired and confuse
He said, “Got lost, all the houses and roads look the same”

Historical Me

I am a son of a Maori soldier
My grandmother is from Spain
My father is a German immigrant
He married a Chinese girl
Who is daughter of a Fijian couple
They have moved from Tonga
And decided to live in Samoa

The Maori soldier came with
The English soldier at the end of WWII
The German soldier stayed
And married the Samoan girl
The Chinese came to farm coconuts
The Fijian came for love
The Tongan came to preach

Their courses collided
And got me

The Grave Of My Fathers

Silence rules a land once heard
As the moon helplessly tries
To restore life in this house
I sit at my place
I see no faces
Only outlines of humans in the dark

Their heads bow in sorrow
As a roaring wind shakes the faleo’o
Then a thunder followed
It lighted the sky
But there were no clouds to rain
Nor a tree to strike

We sat in a circle
On rough fine mats
We wore lavalavas
Without shirts
Then the man in the far corner
Opposite me spoke the first words
His grieving voice starts to sing
His face glitters in the moonlight
As if though his tears have turned solid on his cheeks
For between us in the middle of the faleo’o
Laid a coffin

After he sang then he said
“He was a son to us all
He had his father’s fist
And his mother’s heart
He was blessed by his heritage
Crowned with a legacy of his ancestors
He lived to die…and indeed he has died to live”

Then the man…through the darkness
Pointed at me
And said
“It’s your turn,
Say your last words
For he who lies between us”

I stood up from my corner
And walked towards the coffin
Then I stood beside it
As if though I was stopped so sudden
I gathered my thoughts
And then started to talk

“The darkness cannot hide your faces from my heart
Nor the wind could shake your strength from my soul
The thunder cannot drain your blood from my veins
Nor your grieving souls will go in vain
But for him…let your son go home
For he has died to live”

I looked at the feet of the coffin
Inscribed on it “Carved from the mind of my soul”
In the centre of the coffin
I saw the words “Tradition without pride,
For to live for God…is to die in this house”

I looked through the glass-window on the head of the coffin

Only to find myself staring back at me

Note from poet

The faleo’o is an analogy of lineage. The land of my fathers is the place I left, when I migrated to NZ. I broke that circle of the faleo’o. The land (or lineage connected to it) that was “once heard” as far back as our ancestors – has lost a son and the present heir of the line. What was once the land of their sons has become “The grave of our fathers”.

I believe this is an analogy and story that most New Zealand born Islanders and Migrants can relate to. We now live in the land of our children. But oh! How dear the price we paid.

- Cedric Mamoe

Featured Artist Fiona Holding