blackmail press 34
Tulia Thompson
New Zealand

spirits of the forest  Vanya Taule'alo
Tulia Thompson is a New Zealand-born Pacific writer of Fijian, Tongan and Pakeha descent. She is grateful to have studied creative writing at Auckland University. She has a short story published in Niu Voices: Contemporary Pacific Fiction, and Josefa and the Vu (Huia Publishers), an adventure novel for children, was published in 2007. She is currently living in Vancouver.
Love Poem in Allelujah

Here are the things I would hand you –

the smell of roses and something peppery.
the small warmth of sweat.

keys that interrupt                  still
   you used to touch tentatively
                   child gentle and wild.

Saying you are beautiful is not the whole truth.
You are beautiful and ugly.

teenagers climb            wide
on a trunk of pohutukawa

I am drinking mango and ginger tea.

Your hair is hay/ a mane/ a serpent
when we fuck it tangles down like jungle vines.
It is sparrow brown,
Rapunzel, it is a nest.

at the next table              a water jug
a slice of orange is a goldfish
a girl that says           ‘I have no idea what I am doing’.

Dance hall palm trees wash against dirty boys in checkered shirts,
Cigarettes, pens, ginger beer
the plasterwork elegant and dated
you and she are oddly athenian.

Saying I am beautiful is not the whole truth.
You haven’t seen the ugly in me yet.

A sparrow chirps slow love to late afternoon light.

I would hand you
     blue hydrangea in a paint jar
   on a window sill.
You would hand me your quiet.
salty hours rising between us like gospel.

Land that smiles and smarts

Land that smiles and smarts against our hands – skin burnt bare – these land crumbs –
my mother’s body – blue blue blue –     
and dark sky – dark stars                   – hollowing out the night –

all the time your teeth are clenched –
all the time her tongue is wriggling behind your teeth trying to get out –

clenched like a fist – your fist-words are angry at shadows
– angry at light                                                              – interplay –

here is your body smarting again                                         – here is my body –

the same words –
the fall of the light in the sky after the fireworks –

the stray light – tumbling around – wandering –

lost like a land – lost like my hands – my bare burnt skin –

my mother – body – black black black –
and light air – light breath                               – sucking in the day –
a horizon without a story – without a heartbeat
– all the time my heartbeat cheats – hides like a child in a crowd – in a searchlight –

searches like a hiding child                                     – searches for a home –

homeland –

land that smiles and smarts against our hands


I heard a message from a flame tree
Licking land –
Flame across bare
Branch bodies

All the Heroes
In yellow and red
Flicker on the box                                       smoke screen

Acrid Air Signals                                “Everything has gone up in smoke”
The sky, but also two cowboy conceits:
1. Beginning – Middle – End.
Fire spills –
A contamination of oxygen and carbon        a trapeze body
The ‘run on’ effects transversal

2. The Criminal Native.
                                                   Pacifican, we think America likes it large.

                                    the “immensity”
                                     of a thousand burning trees –
                                     the thief wind is air culprit                                to flame

                                                       by a firefighter
                                                       man of Apache descent

                                                       Unemployed and now,
                                                       Feeling the heat.

                                    “immensity”         colonisation writes backwards
                                     until  (your) land
                                     becomes un – owned                             (unknown)

                                      turns criminal.
the weight of
ancestor voices:

a burning forest.



One as big as a house
wearing a blue dress  with dog legs.

One narrow like a door      opening and closing
blowing a trumpet without sound

One speaking in tongues       all the different tongues
Cat, Dog, Parakeet, Monkey and
        the sound of a baby crying for milk.

The Girl that Grew into a Tree

She is flimsy as the rippled moon on water
                                                                     (Her face too, is half-moon and sallow)

in a red silk kite dress.
Her centipede spine curls against vinyl seats.
The rain hides               her short talk                 with corrugated iron.
she drops her wineglass                                 (a glass slipper)

and waits    to be sewn up.

I am afraid her back will break
before the weight           of her prophecy

bridges her vertebrae to the sky -

They say bird-girls like her don’t fly
                                                    / don’t change     their feathered      ways.

But next time I see her,

She is cutting flesh          thin                                                     from mango             skin
Lines          in her brown           stretching                 out                to ancestors

They say the roots of the tree anchor        as far            underground

As branches that reach to the sky.