Simone Kaho
New Zealand

The Island - Rosie Whinray - 2015
Part One: Tonga

While exposed to colonial forces, Tonga is the last remaining monarchy in the Pacific and every Tongan

knows this.

Part Two: Tonga in the News

Air New Zealand says Tongans are quietly spoken but drink the bar dry

maybe it’s just a Tongan thing, like gold teeth.

I’m quietly spoken but drink the bar dry

and I’m hardly Tongan

only half.

But not straight down the middle though

all mixed in like

so it looks like something else

like if you were to mix peanut butter and jam in a glass jar

it would be pink-brown with raspberry pips and nutty bits.

Not stripes like the Australian product

that didn’t last long on the shelves

there was too much peanut butter in it.

The stripes only lasted the first couple of toasts

then after that it was just pink-brown mush in a glass jar.

No gold teeth though.

Part Three: Too Pretty

Some people say ‘you’re too pretty to be Tongan’, which is funny, because it’s usually Tongans who say it.

It is a short-cut to make a big distance between us and casually call me ‘palagi’ at the same time. I can

hardly see if they are still waving from that long shore far away where they are having an umu with family.

Feasting and belonging together.

But this time the umu is deeper in the ground than it should be

the food takes on the flavour of the dirt

I can see them eating pink gashes into the pig

which is the same colour as flesh-coloured



Eating, praying – ‘we thank you for our daily bread’

But there is pig juice to the root of fingers

so now they can be forced into tight holes

or slipped out of rings

Mmm boaka mmm

– you don’t eat meat do you?

‘No but some palagi’s do’

My mother

another palagi

she eats bacon

with her flesh-coloured mouth

she said she heard the pigs crying once

before they were killed by the Tongans

she said

‘They sounded like women’


I can remember eating pig trotters and loving the puffy succulence, sucking the yellow marrow out of

bones, but I gave up eating meat at sixteen. They thought I was crazy in Tonga. The only flesh I've eaten for

the last four years is fish and shellfish, although I pull the tongue (or root) out of mussels and the bags of

dark dirty stuff. Henry used to scoff mussels but he's stopped eating them lately. He says he's disgusted by

the gristly piles of parts that grow on the porcelain ledge of my plate. But it would be weird if I

disembowelled them too — he says.


Dad didn’t want me to stay with our family in Tonga because there was no shower, only a tin bucket. You

have a good job don't you? He said, Go stay in a resort. But I said no. On the first Saturday he went to the

market early and bought back ten crayfish. Auntie boiled them and they were lined up in the kitchen when I

got up for breakfast. There was a small female among them, Dad gently lifted her orange eggs and shook his

head – It wouldn't be allowed at home. I ate them every meal on white bread with butter and hot sweet



piglet on a spit   it’s Christmas   it was only alive three months but doesn’t accuse its eyes are dull black   its

wince a fold of crackling   its only resistance inedible hooves   pointing dainty   at the coals   rising heat  

curdles the grey summer air where the fence stops   feet totter past the dog    chained between the old house

and the new house   those houses would get up and move away if they could   stagger creaking down the

street   or just swap places for a change of scenery   looking down from above we would see them   squatting

in newly fenced pens   but there’s no point in climbing   the trees are smaller every year   December twenty-

fifth bright litter on muddy floorboards   freshly broken toys   and whipped cream gone greasy

Biography Simone Kaho
Simone Kaho is New Zealand poet of Tongan ancestry. She has appeared in scores of poetry shows including; The Kerouac Effect, Theradical Hobohemians, Spit it Out and is a former member of the Literrati. Her work has been published in JAAM, Turbine and The Dominion Post.