Sabrina Muck

Aotearoa / New Zealand


Lifou . . . is like a dream
Our first night here
a bolt of cloth is placed on our knees
as part of the coutume
We are honored guests
but what use will we have for it?

The dancers sway and stamp
in the light of one thousand fires
We give thanks for the bougna
to the women who have given hours of themselves to prepare this feast
to share this feast and its
earth-smoked flavours
in the drizzly heat

Saturday, we climb a steep incline
making our own rocky pilgrimage
to a stone chapel high above the sea
a picnic bundle of Cokes and sandwich du jambon
we leave the blanket inside the door
it will be used here

I am here now
I can practically taste the sense of adventure
on my tongue

I kneel down to inscribe the word oleti in the sand
giving thanks in the local language to the land
for the beauty I have found in my travels

It is beginning to get dark
I walk through the salt air
All I can hear . . . are voices of welcome
All I can see . . . the smiles of children
still playing in the warm blue sea

A note on this poem: In January 2014 I travelled to Lifou in the Loyalty Islands of New Caledonia-Kanaky. Due to the ongoing political tensions in New Caledonia, the colonising French population have an interest in presenting indigenous Kanaks (particularly in remote areas) as threatening and unwelcoming. This poem is my attempt to capture my experiences there, which enabled me to share in (and give thanks for) the warmth and hospitality of Tribu Wetr, the largest Kanaky tribe in Lifou.


The villa rusts by the sea
Torches are lit along the water
The aroma of faraway countries

We are invited to walk along the beach
to a glowing fire pit in the ground

cross-legged men turn sharpened
sticks in the flames
To grill fish / alive only
an hour ago

You are reeking of deet, sweat
the smoke of a thousand brushfires
and campfires
and cooking fires
a handful of clubs on the mainland

Later, the sound of your breath
mingles with the waves outside our window
and the sweet scent of rum


It was the last day of the wet season
when the pālagi came through our village
on bicycles
I had never been on a bicycle
but I knew you could hire them
from the kind Swiss man in Manase

It had been
just a normal day in Safotu
when they passed through
men fishing
kids coming home from school
and me, feeding my baby
with my back to the sea

Cooking smoke thick in the air
from all these houses
that sit on the scorched earth
charred by volcanoes
blackened by fires in the sky
and still delivering our bounty

A normal day in Safotu
Biutiful Savaiʻi
Biutiful Sāmoa

It was the last day of the wet season
when we rode our bicycles through the village
My new husband and I
through warm rain and wind
through sand and rocks
and a jungle by the sea

stopping to pluck bananas from the rafters
of a bus stop
We came to the edge of the village
an abandoned church that told us “welcome”

Built in epic proportions from across the sea
blackened by rain falling from fires in the sky
Empty now in its ravaged beauty and ruined gloom

A normal day in Safotu
Biutiful Savaiʻi
Biutiful Sāmoa

Walking back from Manase
the heavens opened
and we were drenched
We had been told
that Samoans love the rain
but when the colours of a bus
roared out of the gloom
we chased it across the road
jumped on and yelled
Fagamalo, faʻamolemole!
The passengers shared a grin with us
these rain-soaked honeymoon pālagi
the driver didn’t even blink
We held the windows into their frames
a child asked “where are you going?”
and we couldn’t lie
Sadly we replied
“home. We’re going home”

Passing through Manase
A normal day
but not for us
breathing magic in the air
warm rain
warm wind

Biutiful Savaiʻi
Biutiful Sāmoa

detail of Diasporic Waters - Joy Enomoto - 2014
Baninnur: A Basket of Food

Sabrina Muck is a lawyer, poet, and passionate traveler who lives, works and writes in Auckland, Aotearoa/New Zealand. Her poetry has been published by blackmail press and One Sentence ( and in the Live Lines Anthologies. She is a member of the performance poetry group The Literatti and has performed her work at the Auckland Fringe Festival, Auckland City Library, the University of Auckland, Poetry Live, and several poetry slams.