‘Marae Shuffle’ by Apirana Taylor

We hope you enjoy this brand new short story by Apirana Taylor (author of Five Strings, Anahera Press, 2017).

Marae Shuffle    

Just before the first ray of sunlight peeped in the door. ‘Karanga. Karanga.’ Clang, clang rang the bell. ‘E oho. E oho e te whanau.’

Aw jeez, these Ngati’s got no sleep kawa, I thought.

An arm of sunlight reached through the window. In the shadows and light on the other side of the whare shapes began to shuffle and wriggle. I turned on my back and gazed up at the kowhaiwhai on the roof above me. It’s been a long time since I’ve been on a marae. Oh just one more hour’s sleep, I sighed.

Clang. Clang. Despite the bell some slept on. My cousin Hepa snored loud enough to blow the roof off and my bro droned away beneath  the pou of our tipuna.

Clang. There was no escape. I had to, maranga. I lay stretched out covered by my sleeping bag and surrounded by others who slept or began to shuffle making moaning noises and calling as they woke. ‘Kia ora sis.’

I stretched out my long arm and groped about for my overnight bag. My socks are in there, I thought. Grasp grapple. Nothing. The overnighter had disappeared. What to do.

I lay hidden from the world by my sleeping bag. Half naked and faced with the problem of getting dresed without exposing my wherewithal to all.

My feet poked up like tongues at the end of my mattress. My bag was just beyond my feet. I shuffled and stretched my leg and toes towards the elusive bag and continued to clasp my bed clothes about me. A similar shuffling and wriggling began on the opposite wall of the house as more manuhiri woke. ‘Morena. Waiata mai ra, Kiri te Kanawa,’ said Manu to her daughter who snored high as the top string.

At last I hooked my toe over my bag’s handle. I was amazed by the way I managed to crane it up to my hand, under the blankets, without being noticed as I twisted about in my mini lava lava.

A change of underwear and socks was needed and they were in my overnighter somewhere. In the semi dark I groped about for these necessary items. They were nowhere to be found. I emptied the bag beside me. Whose is this phone and whose is this lipstick. Struthe. It’s not my bag.

You idiot. I cursed myself. You left your bloody bag up by your pillow. There it is tucked away under your ancestor’s feet. I reached out. I released my sleeping bag with my left hand clutched the bed clothing with my right, keeping myself covered, as I stretched out with my left and grabbed the overnighter. The socks and undies weren’t in it.

I gave up. Somehow I’d worked myself into a tangle. One end of my lava lava was twisted around my collywobbles and the other was wrapped about my neck. I wriggled about in the dim shadow light and untangled myself. A couple more acrobatic contortions and I was ready to begin again. Off with the old and on with the new.

I found my undies and socks. They were beside me all the time. By a  miracle I kept undercover and wriggled into them.

The carved faces of our ancestors gazed at me as they looked over all who slept within the house. The whaikorero, laughter, songs and chit chat. They heard it all as they sat in the fields of tukutuku under the stars on the roof.

‘E oho. Kia tere.’ Wake up. Quick. I kite au te rangatira o te tangata whenua e tu ana ki mua i te tatau.

How could I get my trousers on. Right foot stretched toe wriggled. Hook the daks up from the foot of the mattress. Still undercover. Scuffle shuffle I wriggled into my pants. I sat up and put on my shirt.

I watched other manuhiri as they stirred and wriggled out of their cocoons. Beyond the door outside, I saw the tangata whenua gathered and waiting for karakia. ‘Me karakia tatau i mua i te  parakuihi.’

My shoes have disappeared. Where did I put them? Who shifted them? Who’s wearing them?

Clang Clang. Karanga karanga. As day dawned we answered the call and gathered outside the whare beneath the arms of our tipuna. I stood before the dawn in bare feet with my shirt on backwards, ready for karakia.

Rāwāhi by Briar Wood: Available Now

Today at Anahera Press we are delighted to announce that this beautiful poetry book, Rāwāhi by Briar Wood, is now available for sale. You can buy copies of Rāwāhi direct from the Anahera website by clicking on the ‘Books’ tab; or from all good independent bookstores, eg. Unity, The Women’s Bookshop, etc. Congratulations Briar!

‘Make your hair like a Pālagi’ by Serie Barford

Anahera Press hopes you enjoy this short story by Serie Barford, extracted from her collection Entangled Islands (2015).

Both of my parents had dark curly hair in their youth. Dad had the black hair of a qualtagh, the desirable first-footer who brings the magical power of beginnings into Scottish homes on New Year’s Eve, and Mum had a frizzy bob that was cut into layered waves by the hairdresser in the salon at the top of the arcade stairs.

Mum reinforced the waves by setting her hair in plastic curlers, anchoring them with skewers and bobby clips, then wrapping her head securely with a scarf so that she could sleep on her spiky helmet without dismantling it during the night. I have vivid memories of being shaken awake on school days to the sight of loosened skewers poised like daggers above my eyes.

My mother cut quite a figure in those days with her hair-sprayed coiffure, immaculately pressed homemade clothes and hibiscus-red lipstick. My sister and I were really proud of the fact that she once caused a car accident outside the dairy when she worked at the Four Square at the top of our street. Mum had been sweeping up lolly wrappers and minding her own business when a guy who was gawking at her backed into another car. Boom! That was my news at Morning Talk at school and the whole class clapped.

I felt really lucky to have such a pretty mother and I could tell that Dad was proud of her too. He’d heard about the crash while he was having a cuppa in the lunchroom at work. Grandma said it was a pity that the driver wasn’t hurt because he was a married man and shouldn’t have been eyeing her daughter like that. I wasn’t really sure how people’s eyes changed when they got married but my sister was waiting for me so I let the matter drop and ran outside to play.

Rosy had thick, straight brown hair with chestnut highlights. She was short so her ponytail went a long way down her back. It was my job to turn Rosy into a princess with Victorian ringlets. I accomplished this by tearing old sheets into arm-length strips to make rags that I wrapped around her freshly washed hair before she went to sleep. We’d sit in the lounge on the sofa and I’d chant, “Wrap the hair around the rag and the rag around the hair,” over and over until her head was wrapped up like an Egyptian mummy. When Rosy woke up in the morning I’d gently unwind the rags and her hair would fall in ringlets down to her waist.

I did such a good job of turning Rosy into a princess that she was picked on by Miss Archer, her school teacher, who detested prettiness and assurance in little girls. Miss Archer started shouting at Rosy, scrawling over her exercise books with red ink, making her stand in the corner and sending her out of the classroom for no reason at all. My sister tried to appease Miss Archer by sitting up straight and being extra good but that only made Miss Archer snigger and smirk.

Miss Archer liked to disrupt our games, especially if we were turning the big skipping rope and playing All in Together Girls at lunchtime.

All in together girls

never mind the weather girls

when is your birthday

please jump in

January, February, March

April, May, June, July, August

September, October, November, December.

            Miss Archer couldn’t skip properly and she’d jump in and run out at the wrong time and the rope would snag on her puffy arms or legs. Sometimes she’d snatch one end of the skipping rope from a girl’s hand and wriggle it on the ground like a snake. Then none of us could skip and we’d just hang about the sidelines until she got bored of spoiling our fun and went to eat her lunch in the staff room.

After a while my sister started biting her cardigan and blinking like a flashing car indicator. It was really annoying. We’d be talking to her and she’d be nipping the spaces between her buttons, sucking her cuffs and blinking so fast we couldn’t see her eyes. Then she started talking and walking in her sleep. Mum took Rosy to a doctor who was concerned and discussed treatments for neurological conditions such as Saint Vitus’ Dance and persuaded Mum to visit school and find out what was happening there.

Mum took time off work and visited Miss Archer in her classroom the following day at morning tea time. I stood on tippy toes outside the window so I could see what was happening. Miss Archer attempted to dismiss my mother with disdainful looks and a comment about a busy schedule. Mum just pressed her lips together, stood her ground and skewered Miss Archer to the current affairs notice board with her steely green eyes.

Miss Archer tried to wriggle away but Mum had spent years sleeping on spiky hair curlers, so she wasn’t going to be put off by one squishy teacher. It was an incredible face-off between two women who understood the power of language—one of whom was imprinting the pain of a miserable childhood onto a student who seemed to have everything that she’d been denied as a girl. Miss Archer dissolved into tears just as the bell rang for class. Mum hugged the defeated teacher and dried her stricken blue eyes with an embroidered hanky.

That afternoon I washed my sister’s hair and put it in rags. Then I tried to groom my own hair, but basically it was an unbrushable mop.

“Time to trim that frizz into waves,” Mum said.

I shook my head and Mum sighed. She wanted to control my hair like she managed her own locks but I loved my wayward curls. Mum was sick of dragging me down the arcade and up the stairs to the hair salon. Sometimes the hairdresser would razor cut my hair so short that strangers thought I was a boy. When that happened I’d tearfully put the rags in my sister’s beautiful hair and I’d tell her how I was going to run away from home and grow my hair down to my ankles.

One weekend my parents had visitors who stayed for dinner. The woman was my mother’s friend and I talked to her, but didn’t like the way her husband stared at me. I was quietly eating a piece of pineapple pie when he suddenly threw down his fork, glared at me and announced, “That girl’s got Polynesian hair and a white face!’’

We all stopped chewing. We were shocked. He’d said it as if he was declaring me unclean, or a liar or a cheat. I knew it was some kind of insult but didn’t understand why he’d said it. Everyone knew I had frizzy hair, blue eyes and a pale face. So what? My grandmother and my parents exchanged glances over my head.

“They’d both pass if she’d cut her hair,” he said.

“Me and Rosy pass? Pass what?” I asked.

No one replied and the evening finished on a sour note. I was upset. I didn’t understand how my hair had spoilt the meal.

The next time Mum suggested that I “cut my hair like a Pālagi” I just fixed her strongly with my fierce blue eyes and raged, “I’m not a Pālagi!”

My grandmother couldn’t control her face. It wobbled and stretched then gave way to a shrill cackle. Then she pulled me close and stroked my cheek.

“Get the tortoiseshell comb from my dressing table,” she said.

I fetched the long-toothed comb and stood still as Grandma wound my hair into a short rope that she twisted and secured with the comb’s teeth into a mound on top of my head.

“You’re not a little girl anymore,” Grandma declared. “It’s time to put your hair up. And when you sit down on the couch, remember to keep your legs together and put a cushion on your lap.”

Everyone smiled and I made Grandma a cup of tea, making sure that I selected a matching cup and saucer and served her as if she was as important as Father Martin.

Mum watched Grandma drink her tea and rolled her eyes. “Fiapoko” she said. “That girl’s so fiapoko”.

Ebook announcement

Did you know that recent Anahera titles are also available as ebooks in the Kindle and Kobo stores? If you are after an electronic copy of Five Strings by Apirana Taylor or Lucky Punch by Simone Kaho at a great price, head along to those stores to download your copy. You’ll find other older Anahera Press titles there too. Don’t have an e-reader? Kindle offers a free app you can use to read ebooks on your smart phone, tablet or computer. Happy reading 🙂

New book announcement

We are delighted to announce that in October Anahera Press will release a new poetry collection by Briar Wood. Rāwāhi is a radiant work where sky-borne sealines are inspired by earthly encounters. Rāwāhi will be produced with a gorgeous front cover image by artist Reuben Paterson. Look out for this book from October 16th!

Apirana Taylor’s book launch

Five Strings by Apirana Taylor was launched at Auckland Central City Library on Wednesday 17th May. Close to 100 people attended the launch. The book was launched by Witi Ihimaera (pictured on the left; Apirana and Anahera Press publisher Kiri Piahana-Wong seated). Thanks so much to everyone who attended! And do look out for Five Strings in all good bookstores – or buy directly from this website by clicking on the Books tab (and we offer free postage both in NZ and internationally). (Photo credit Karlo Mila.)

Five Strings release date

Here at Anahera Press we’re happy to announce we now have a release date for Apirana Taylor’s forthcoming novel, Five Strings. We’re delighted that the book will be released as part of the Auckland Writers Festival. All welcome to the launch event at 6pm on May 17th at Auckland Central City Library, Lorne St.

Merry Christmas

Ngā mihi o te Kirihimete from Anahera Press. We are shutting down today and will re-open on the 9th of January. In the New Year we will be completing production on Apirana Taylor’s long-awaited second novel, Five Strings. We will also be commencing production on a new poetry collection – full details to come next year. Until then, ngā mihi o te Tau Hou ki a koutou katoa!

Special Xmas offer

Anahera Press Xmas special! Buy Night Swimming by Kiri Piahana-Wong or Entangled Islands by Serie Barford for $10 each or $15 the pair. Your book will be shipped to you free of charge. Offer applies until 21st December. Email kiri@anahera.co.nz for details. *Thanks to reader Ruth DeSouza for the pic of her books just after they arrived in the mail. xmas-special-offer-pic_2016

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