Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Hoki Mai by Tayi Tibble

Hoki Mai
She kisses him goodbye with her eyes still wet and alight from their
last swim in the Awatere River. At the train station celebration, she
leads the kapa haka but her voice keeps breaking under and over
itself like waves. Like last night, on the riverbank, between the moss
and the baby’s-breath, where he had kissed her sticky until she cried
out from her chest. And she was thinking about the rolls of white
fabric her sister kept in the shed and how she would make a dress
pressed with shiny bits of shell. She could even fix a veil from a
fishing net or wear knots of pale hydrangeas like a crown upon her
head. Then together they would move to the empty plot of ancestral
land forgotten by the sea and have little brown babies that she would
make sure to stuff fat with potatoes and wobbly mutton. And her
children would slurp kina in the summer. Collect driftwood for the
fires on their way home from school. And their father would take up
a good job in Gisborne. Return home, with sacks of boiled sweets
and powdery jam-filled treats, and maybe, on special occasions, a
European perfume or powder that she would keep but never use.
And already she could smell the florals and the meat. Feel them
turning inside her. Sensations so visceral that she cried out from
her chest but when the sun lit up and the train started pulling
away, with every salute, march and funeral-wave farewell, she felt
the world changing. The lump in her throat swelled like a sea that
threatened to take him from her, and she had to swallow hard. But
she promised that every day she would be the first to check the mail
and that was the only vow she took.

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