Semira Davis
New Zealand

Karakia Precari - Penny Howard 2016
Semira Davis is a writer whose work has appeared in Takahē, Landfall, at Poetry Live and Same Same but Different. In 2016 she worked as Editorial Assistant to Anne Kennedy on Ika 4, and completed a Bachelor of Creative Arts (Creative Writing).
Michelle, on a Tuesday night

I can still see your face
sitting at the round table
up the front
to my left
the red light reflected in your glasses
a mug of tea
and your smile
that tangled hair a twisted silhouette
against the faceless crowd


Right now it hurts to look back
giving you that heart-shaped cookie to eat.
You kept it in the freezer in hope of love
reminding me: I am queer.
Deep in my blood you sprouted and grew.
What made you change my mind?

I said I would write. You didn’t mind.
Fingers left keys to cradle your back.
In the winter our romance grew
under thick blankets where we’d eat
each other. Proud and queer.
Disturbing the nights with our love.

You read my past as lack of love.
Nothing I said would ease your mind.
The accusations created a queer
numbness, burrowing through my back
ready to pounce and eat.
Sprouted deep, this numbness grew.

A year of doubt and we grew
apart. You questioning my love;
seeing betrayal in the foods I’d eat
as if my body-shape would lead me back
to men; or that my mind
only saw you as my badge of being queer.

You saw me as more straight than queer.
When the desire to write my past grew
strong you fought hard to hold me back.
You showed contempt and shunned my love,
cutting away the passion of my mind.
You took more than you could eat.

Those bitter words. Those heavy chains began to eat
the heart of me till the queer
numb surfaced and escaped my mind.
My lost self, returned. My strength grew
into words you feared and forced: I don’t love
you. I am leaving and won’t come back.

In fear you forced my hand from love.
Those fearful words into reality grew.
The cookie broke. I made up my mind.

White Boy

white girl likes some ink
white girl likes the pain
she chooses pictures and words
to tell stories to herself
storing memories in her skin
white girl's brother is in jail
white girl has an old-school swallow
on her hand for him
white girl's brother does tattoos
he grew up with the brown people
knows the curve of koru
and crisscross of harakeke
tell stories too
he used his home-made gun
to do himself on shins
the screws in Paremoremo
think he's brown
white boy ain't brown
but white boy ain't white like
the other white boy
who came from UK
got ta moko up his arm
so when he goes back home
he don't get confused
for the kind of white boy
who slaughtered a nation

Act of Prayer

I don’t believe in God
but I’ve prayed twice

first when Mum was pregnant every
night asking for a sister to be my friend

Again when Finn floated out to sea running
those stairs crying don’t let him drown.

It’s not the death of my Gramps
that scares me it’s his funeral

My insides churning but at least I’m
not the one with cancer in my bowels, right?

Mum will be there and I’m not ready
to see her or see her cry. It’s ugly.

Will Finn even be let out
of prison to see his Gramps?

Dad will come with respect
and I won’t know where to sit

When Nana died we weren’t broken
we huddled in bunches

Now it’s all busted where will I go?
Catholic, Baptist, Muslim, Atheist

I don’t belong to these clubs
yet I’m still praying

I belong in a family
but it’s scattered and torn

and you’re just there
watching his concern for my grammar

while his guts rot inside
to be pulled apart on Thursday

and I don’t know who I pray to
because I don’t believe in God

But something gave me a sister
and a brother who lived