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Viêt Nam Departed – Cybella Maffitt

By | 2018 runner up | No Comments

Viêt Nam Departed

Come summer and my grandmother is five-spice again,
as in she is the bà ngoai
whose vowels bow deep
into pork fillings and star anise,
last of us to understand the bloom
of a mother tongue whose consonants clatter dry as the river bank.
Or else she is the worshipper to displaced gods,
to that fresh-pressed promise in linoleum gleam,
under the neon lights of a western land.
The kettle whistles out the immigrant prayers
for her cháu gái, khác nhau,
in words folded crescent moon.
Peel back into yesterday, the blossoming
sound to think how language curdles so swiftly
and one hundred days roll to an end.
Fish-catcher, water-whisperer, little lotus girl far from home,
teach me how to speak.

Cybella Maffitt
Year 12
St Cuthbert’s School

Summer in Antartica – Anna Doak

By | 2018 runner up | No Comments

Summer in Antarctica
I bridge the Antarctic Peninsula to the echos of mounting temperatures
and see my tribe of Adélie penguins conga line to the Southern Ocean.
Uno a uno
amalgamated in search of a promise.
But glacial peaks find the cavities of my mind
of senseless nights,                    where we all should be…
A microcosm for humanity’s sake.
Bound by scores of light to 7,236                                 metres.
The wind flings me into Paradise Harbour
against the shards of ice.
———————————–Against the frozen faces of rocks.
The waves destroy our chorus of calls
across the bay of hope.
Can we ever see the tightrope of the dance, the nets tightening our beaks?
———————–Now we shuffle and wait         and         wait         and         wait
and drift         along the surface in time.

Anna Doak
Year 13
Cashmere High School

they ask why i don’t wear makeup – Harriet Carter

By | 2018 runner up | No Comments

they ask why i don’t wear makeup

copper sundays bleed concrete
and a ten minute
pōhutukawa road
they hide
behind petroleum compliments
and leg-appreciating honks
no hate here
they cherish both uniform
and red church dresses
shame burns my chest
i have cactus eyes now
a calculated deafness no longer silences
and opprobrious admiration echoes


the sign says

male ears shouldn’t have to listen
cradled lullabies choke
———-bruised words;
private school brotherhoods
wear ignorance like lynx
‘only desperate liars lie here’
don’t cry
i won’t
crying smudges eyeliner

Harriet Carter
Year 13
Northcote College

Mother and Child – Catherine Davidson

By | 2018 runner up | No Comments

Mother and Child

The coastal landscape can be harsh,
strong winds lash the forest.
Yet the karaka tree
with a polished marble trunk,
grows strong.
Its foliage is dense,
sheltering new life.
Glossy green fruit follows
fuelled with the tree’s energy.
Time passes.
The fruit ripen to deep orange
connected to the branch by a stem,
which weakens as the fruit tissue swells.
One day
the final thread snaps.
The fruit plummets.
For the first time it is alone,
free-falling to an uncertain future.
The tree cannot dictate the fate of its fruit.
It can only watch.

Catherine Davidson
Year 13
St Hilda’s Collegiate

Pasilangi Pasifika and Palangi – Ruby Rae Macomber

By | 2018 runner up | One Comment

Pasifika and Palangi

I can only chew coconut on one side of my mouth.
Half is nestled behind my wisdom teeth,
to prize out,
shriveled and raw,
when cultural identity comes under question.
Yet after all this time,
the taste is still foreign to my tongue.
My mouth is tentative to taste.
Even more so
to swallow.

A Countdown ‘pick and mix’
of Europe, East Asia and the Pacific.
I’ve learnt to ignore my trachea’s aggravation
while exhaling coconut’s indigenous compilation.
Its deep consonants, rolling vowels.
No wonder I stutter
and stammer.
My larynx is stuck in time zones,
groggy, despite the jet-lag pills.
Covered by vocal cords rubbing out of phase.

On the four-day trip
from the islands to Otorohanga
British missionaries adjusted the screws of my ancestors’ voice boxes.
They straightened out their tongues
and tightened the muscles surrounding their jaws.
When they lodged their forceps down their throats, they replied,
Au na vosa mada ga na noqu dina,
I will only speak my truth.

My grandmother’s adolescent years
were spent in the Ovalau district convent.
Long legs and a short temper for survival.
Brought up with
soulful hymns of Isa Lei, and
farewell waves,
for a father with whisky in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
She looked to the mainland,
sun-stained hills and hidden valleys of Viti Levu.
For she knew her life elsewhere may soon be underwater.

A place where years later,
her children were raised
each perched on a knee.
Under the coconut tree
of opportunity
pecking at the palm fronds,
dancing till daybreak.
Oblivious to their retreating umbilical cord.
The placenta of their homeland growing weaker.
A connection seen as something
simply to bury beside the chicken coop.

Many years later,
she picked at the holes in my jeans,
and complained of New Zealand fruits’ bland aftertaste.
“Ovalau has the sweetest papaya,” she’d say

In New Zealand
I know karma chameleon.
Stagnant seas of red, gold and green.
I skid stones across the surface,
but there is no ripple to be born on an ocean iced-over.
My culture club cries into the microphone,
you come and go.

Defined by an archaic notion that we are a percentage of ethnicities,
the biggest of which we own as our own,
the others we disregard.
Multiculturalism has left me utterly confused.
Embrace all,
be one,
be all,
embrace one.

I envy my father.

Who can confidently tick ‘Pasifika – Fijian’
on every form.
And his father,
who did so with a blunt pencil lodged between knobby knuckles,
a cup of coffee held between his knees,
and corn he’d extracted from the cob
by kernel
between his teeth.
Imagine the audacity
for a mixed-race girl to do the same.

P is for Pasilangi.
I is an identity unresolved.
I’m too white for a brown title,
too brown for a white one.
Left to constantly negotiate the terms of my identity,
exchanging chips with reality.
Today I’ll be white.
A child can tell you the colour of their lips,
yet the colour of their culture will require a spectrum of hues.
Check boxes to reach a wider demographic.

Teach me how to exhale in my origin language.
I want my lungs to accept the ocean’s air as their own
and my diaphragm to feel snug below my rib cage.
The carved Lali of my lungs
will not beat hollow
but filled with vibrations.
Hymns of Isa Lei.
Off pitch, but that’s okay.
I can’t wait for the day that silence is foreign to the tongue,
and coconut does not feel it has to hide behind my wisdom teeth.


Ruby Rae Macomber
Year 12
Northcote College

honest pleas in crude crayon – Patricia Alcartado

By | 2018 runner up | No Comments

honest pleas in crude crayon

ham-fisted, over-saturated, filled to spilling – i am an old puzzle: pieces missing, colour faded
my conduct is a stutter and my voice contains a fumbling, green thing
there are days where my heart forgets its place
lodging in my throat, pressing into my larynx and choking me with each bloody pump
when the sky unfolds above me i misremember my own name
is it woman? is it immigrant? is it youth?
am i merely the brand burned into my skin by a thousand condemning stares?
am i a glass thing, changing within every fire i am placed?
can i ever be more than they’ve made me?

Patricia Alcartado
Year 13
Hamilton Girls’ High School

I Am Waiting for You – Stella Stevens

By | 2018 runner up | No Comments

I Am Waiting for You

I am waiting for you
in the shadow of the maunga,
in the cold damp bush.
I am perched on the edge of the forest,
on the branch of the mighty kauri tree.
I slowly slide down the trunk and
hide amongst the ferns.
I see their silver underbellies glistening in the moonlight,
bowing their leaves to me in the wind as I slink past an ageing kauri snail.
Its meat is of no interest to me so I continue bashing through the undergrowth.
What do you think of me?
I have a dark glossy coat that ripples in the breeze.
I am sly with a hooked tail,
like the curve of a koru.
I strip the trees of their growth.
I scramble, I scamper, I slink through the darkness.
I steal tree’s life;
I destroy Mother Nature.
Do you hear me as I shake branches?
Do you hear me crunching on the leaves of the rimu?
Do you hear my victory screech,
my grunts as I climb to the canopy,
my hiss to scare you off?
But some don’t hear my warning cry.
Some venture on in search of my blood.
I creep through the black,
across the gravel path.
Two blinding lights appear
from around the corner.
I freeze…
The lights stare at me.
I stare back with wide inky eyes.
I hear the sound of a gun.
I run.
I am darting through the bushes,
I flee until I reach the safety
of my kauri tree.
I am waiting for you
to give up…
I have survived the hunt,
I have dodged death,
I am still alive.
The fight has been fought,
the victory has been won.
I am curled up in my tree
waiting for your return.
My place is to taunt you
and destroy your mighty forest.

Stella Stevens
Year 13
Motueka High School

Ballad of the computer lab – Cerys Fletcher

By | 2018 runner up | No Comments

Ballad of the computer lab

say dewdrop. say honeysuckle. say your own
name, over & over til it is only saliva. i want only to be compound.
now are you getting it? i am scared all that will be left is
crumbs. i am scared there will be a diagnosis of something & i will
think of course, i saw all the signs so many years ago. the computer
labs at school are still plastered with posters from the 90s,
all email etiquette & what does html stand for. i do not
believe you will pay for your sins & there are
not many things in which i do not believe. it might come as a knock on
the door or dead sparrow caught in the chimney. a letter, soggy
from the postie’s sweaty hands. a first kiss,
all tongue & no air. i am not the messenger, so do not
hold me accountable for the word the trees send. all they have done
is shelter me, & i did not ask even that. say benchtop.
say switchblade. say doorhinge. the knots they taught you in an old scout
den unravel. floorboards peel up like so much roasted skin. posters
from the 90s glow goldenrod & curl like ribbons stripped from the bone.
this is the darkest winter i’ve known yet & have spent much
time watching the past going up in smoke. in the house across the bay,
identical twins watch the flames. in the house on the hill,
dead girl’s friend watches the flames. hooked up to a machine sapping their
blood, the well-intentioned fool watches the flames. say shortcut. say beachside.
say dommage, dommage, dommage. tell your dead stories over & over,
til they are saliva sprayed across the room, or crumbs through
the forest, sourdough all through the moulder & green, over the logs &
seeping into the marsh. i scrape tarmac from roads with switchblade,
bleed till i drip honeysuckle. & i have spent so much
time watching the past buckle to
flame. i do not believe you will pay for your sins.
i’ll give you half anyway.

Cerys Fletcher
Year 13
Cashmere High School

He Sailed Away – Kushla Siemonek

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He Sailed Away

In a shack by the sea,
All covered in rust.
In an old tackle box,
Six inches in dust.
There lies a leather book,
A story to read.
About a young fisherman,
Who sailed to sea.
He loved the smell of the air,
And the glistening water.
Sadly leaving behind
His wife and his daughter.
He went to find treasure,
Fish, for food and money.
But once finally returned,
Found life much less sunny.
His wife had now left him,
For someone far away.
He had no one to care for,
And nowhere to stay.
So he left that small town,
To live by the sea.
Where his spirit would sail,
And his soul was set free.
I wish this story’s end,
Was happier, less wild.
But sadly it is not,
I know, I’m his child.

Kushla Siemonek
Year 12
Taumarunui High School

Vignettes – Ilena Shadbolt

By | 2018 award winner | One Comment


we move through streets
washed in sepia and oil
searching for vanilla ice cream.
i don’t look at you
but we look at the water, trembling
quivering light pins.
we move between fish tanks
laughing at cubicle people,
skirting round the edges of ourselves.
a woman all bent
over piano keys,
deep-sea creature
cast in red.
casual words and legs
against countertops,
palming a rhythm
from wall to wall.
a man
spilling yolk,
spitting shell
into the receiver.
but you are still without dessert
so march on, as all must do
strobing through capsules of life
entombed in windows at night.

Ilena Shadbolt
Year 13
Queen Margaret College