Returning to Rarotonga
Bill Nelson (IIML, Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand)
Make small promises
to return and repair
glass, timber. Replace damages
with blankets and hands.
Snip a hibiscus, plant
fertile in soil
the stem grafted with bone
a new root.
Trade will for whatever
We ask the chief for glasses of water, a lectern, ample lighting and a small
security detail. The whole village crams in, some in the rain looking
through windows, others dangling from rafters. ‘Look,’ I say, ‘we come here
with peace. We mean you – palms raised – no harm. We ask only – palms
together – for forgiveness.’ Our smiles light up the room. In the absence
of electricity, someone pulls a machete from his trousers. A cue for the rest.
They say some of the houses smouldered for years.
There is something about that smell, Francis said
the islands, home, you don’t get anywhere else.
Bill Nelson is currently studying creative writing at Victoria University of Wellington where he is working on his first book of poetry. He will also be guest editing an issue of the journal, Blackmail Press this year. His father has lived in the Cook Islands since he was a boy and every time he returns it is a vastly different place.