Simone Kaho is a Tongan / Pākehā poet who loves narrative poetry and performance poetry. She has hard urban edges offset with an effervescent love of nature and a Masters from the International Institute of Modern Letters. Her first book, Lucky Punch, was published in 2016.
If we work backwards from the rape she has thirteen thousand five hundred and fourteen steps to take. But the rape is not the end so let’s start from now.
She can smell something nice as she gets out of the car. A scent somewhere between a flower smell and a food smell. The source is not clear. It’s not the dash of orange flowers which are nice to suck, not the yellow poison berries which broke up one of her mother’s children’s parties. Not the dead branches bunched up by the garage, or flax, the spill of gravel dotted with dog poo and unknown red berries, leading to the stairs. What then? She asks her flatmate, who can also smell it, and neither of them know.
You see how life goes on?
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It’s a detour on route to the beach. She follows him off the main road thinking What if he? Nah…
Knock three times on the ceiling if you want me, twice on the pipe if the answer is no.
How hard he is. Arms like branches, fingers like forks, jabbing in and wrenching her breasts. She fends but it’s like trying to hit a baseball thrown by Babe Ruth. His hands are beak-shaped and she feels them rather than sees them. One of his nails splits her cuticle.
For a moment she sees it. Her face bloody and shattered with the helmet still on.
What a drag I haven’t been working out. My body wrapped around my bones like marzipan.
Let’s pause here and anchor ourselves.
Time opens for her. She screams. Aware of her feet pressing down. There’s a need to throw her head back, open her throat so the scream can break out, glistening, into the sky.
There is blood in her scream, and intestines, and her desire to see his. Vomit, laugh, thumb-in his eyes, gouge his jelly, do bad things, anything. She emerges from the scream and attacks.
When she can see again, she sees he’s motored away and is watching her from a yellow path near one of the villas she’d thought meant she was safe. Because people in it would come if she screamed. A flicker from the corner of her eye says there’s a motorway nearby.
It’s all just chemistry when you think about it and cosmology, mankind careening through space unable to control their vessel. We think we know. We know monkeys use bones as tools, as weapons. Man thinks he’s holding a joystick, playing pilot, saving a crashing plane.
Nothing to do with her. She is pure like lava. It is only because of her past she can be like this. This time she gets away from him, but with her life, so there is more to come.
After the escape on the motorway, after he has sped after her and laid his hands on her breasts again as he passes her, laughing. After how much she wants to kill him. You cunt she screams at his mirth-shaking back. He stops ahead at a red light, hunched over the handlebars with elbows poking up like funky chicken wings. She turns onto a dirt road to avoid lining up behind him. Then she’s lost. And stops in a cafe to ask where to go. A waiter casts her a languid look and points out directions. How polite he is not to attack me she thinks. He could, you know.
She leaves with the attacker riding at her shoulder, in her blind spot.
Determined to be fine, she parties hard that night. A British guy coaxes her into the sea, naked, and says in the warm black water – I’m sorry that happened. Perhaps it was because you’re so beautiful, he couldn’t control himself. No. she says. Don’t blame my face. Later, he disagrees when she says she’d have shot him if she’d had a gun. Make his face swallow itself, a close-up of a drop of water hitting a larger body of water, like in nature documentaries.
If I had a pounamu mere I would’ve planted it in his throat
If I had a patu made of bone I would’ve opened his neck to the spine
If I had a knife I would’ve sheathed it in his eye
If I had a rock I would’ve bludgeoned his head shapeless
No, you wouldn’t have he says. Yes I would she says. And knows it to be true. As true as there being clouds above, although it’s night so they can’t be seen.
It’s a good idea to have sex with the British guy and prove she’s not traumatised. He doesn’t want to use a condom. How lucky I am, she thinks, to put this wannabe rapist behind me.
I won, she thinks as the British guy turns her over. I won.
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I like the smell of healing wounds. Before I was an alcoholic I was a tomboy. My knees were always glazed with grazes, the gel that forms before the scab. I would examine it. Coming to understand that skin always comes back. Even the time I slashed open my thumb from inside knuckle to tip catching a bowl of raw fish that fell from the fridge (such quick reflexes). At ACC a young blonde doctor strapped rubber bands around the base, injected painkiller and ripped it back open to look for glass. There are scars from the injections 24 years later. I didn’t realise he didn’t know what he was doing until the end, when he was trying to sew it back up. The thumb guts wouldn’t fit back in. I had to lie down, and he said, I told you so. I’d been watching because I wanted to be a doctor, but I stopped wanting to that day. My thumb healed with an open nerve I’d finger when nervous. Before the open nerve it was bandaged for weeks. It smelt sweet and toey. Kind-of like genitals after good sex. I met with an old friend the other week. He smelt like the old guys at the rest home my Dad managed. I knew something was very wrong from the smell of him but I left early rather than say that. It didn’t sound very diagnostic. Later he sent me a story where I was a helpless sexual object. Later he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
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See more of Simone’s poetry in this print issue of takahē 95