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Mepa Taufa-Vuni
New Zealand

Taipari O Maraea - Penny Howard
Tongan born Author and Poet, Mepa Taufa-Vuni, is a mother of four children. A graduate from the University of the South Pacific and the University of Auckland, she works as a maths specialist at Fairburn Primary School at Otahuhu, Auckland, New Zealand. 

Thou shalt not steal
(for Kalisi Tohifolau)

The ocean was rough
It was a dark stormy night
Sky covered with a black blanket
Waves rose furiously
Beat against the rock
He hauled his hook
Into the bottomless ocean
It sank deep into the black furious water
Salty spits of the waves
Blinded his eyes
His hook sank
With its sinker – the tongue of the church’s bell
His father, the minister
Cursed the thief for taking the alarm of the Lord
Sending him straight to hell

The ocean was rough
It was a stormy night
Sky covered with a black blanket
Waves rose furiously
Beat against the rock
He sank into the black deep ocean
His father’s words sank with him
Deep into the darkness of hell
With its sinker – the tongue of the church’s bell

He was gone all night
Gave his wife a great fright
They looked for him beside the cliff
All they found was his bag
They dived, looking for him
He was found with his right arm; missing
Wedged with the sinker between rocks
His rock of ages, cleft for him

Proper Tongan Ta’ahine
(for my sisters Seini Tala’au & Malama for all the laughs we shared)

There was this neighbour of mine
Her mother sings her praises
My poor mother who questions herself
Forever contrasted and compared myself
To this sweet girl next door – the proper Tongan ta’ahine
Searching the wrong turns she did with me
Tormenting herself with her fast-forwarding back on time
She; this neighbour of mine loves God, reads her bible every day
I was like the spawn of the devil, driving her dismay
She goes to church, wears long tupenu with fine mats
While I was known to nurse my hangover with the cats
She speaks like a true lady, patient and never shouts
I was too loud, forever frown and pouted all the time
She sips her water and vows her lips have never touched alcohol
I drank like a sailor; spoke like one, hence; shaming my mother’s soul
Her reputation well-respected above and beyond
Many men flocked to her side like moths to flame
To court and drink kava for the proper Tongan Ta’ahine
While fakaleitis flocked to my side, much to my mother’s frustration
For a night of dancing, laughing and partying
My poor old mother hung her head in shame
There was this neighbour of mine
Whose mother proudly tells others
There are many men courting her proper Tongan Ta’ahine

There was this neighbour of mine
Who married this Tongan faifekau
Her mother was over the moon and invited the whole town
Their kainga danced and joked like clowns
Celebrating her life as the proper Tongan Ta’ahine
They went through all customs and traditions
They exchange gifts of fine mats and hundreds of tapa
Their first Sunday was a biggie
Hundreds of pigs were slaughtered for the occasion
She wore white to church, cocooning herself in fine mats
Everyone fussed over her, teasing her about the coming night

There was this neighbour of mine
Whose aunts paraded around in our town
Fresh white sheet smeared with her virgin blood
As their banner for all eyes and ears to see
Beating drums like thunder – singing ‘Happy, happy Tonga’
Her innocence loudly celebrated with the biggest pig
Her mother fanned herself; congratulating her effort
My poor mother cried over the phone to the lifeline
Begging for prayers, saying her daughter was not so fine

There was this neighbour of mine
I saw her with her husband at our backyard
Chasing chicken in the midnight
The most common sport for newlyweds on their first night
If you were not brought up in Tonga
This would be a weird sight
Wife tiptoeing while husband making the dash for the chicken
You may ask ‘Why hunting a chicken on their first night?’
I used to be confused and thought it was a Tongan custom for bride and groom
To spend their first night chasing my grandmother’s chicken with a broom
But after seeing so many chicken events through my lifetime
I found out from my fakaleiti’s gang – my partners in crime
That they are just after the blood of the poor chicken
To smear on the about to be trumpeted white sheet
As the virgin blood for the proper Tongan Ta’ahine