Firing the Pots


(For Grace Mera Molisa)

In this season of vegetables, the year you left us behind
The Second Melanesian Festival swells Vila
Black Brothers sing to wantok women
in the solid dark at Independence Park
a fourteen man string band and one green guitar
rocking everybody at the gallery opening.

Between broken English and beginner’s Bislama
I explain to people of the ples I am studying your poetry –
but some hear pottery and give me directions
to the Kaljoral Senta where I admire
red mats of Ambae, dyed, matanaho,
precise, incised fragments of Lapita

and join the large group gathering to watch
women from Wusi, Espiritu Santo
who have been working in secret all week
shaping layers from volcanic black sand,
applying designs, waves, fishbones,
pikinini fingers gripping the carefully shaped lips

putting on a red slip, sprinkling with seawater
the firmed earthenware exterior turned upside down
as the bundles of fronds and branches
piled high on a platform of hot river rocks
burns, flaring up with a flourish
in a process usually performed at dawn.

So your poetry has come through
that blaze of themes, critiques and dreams,
tempered words, fused to a brilliant black
and packed with your country’s colours,
graceful containers, holding the future’s truth.
Your poetry inspires, the pots are firing.

first published in the Port Vila Presse, 2002, © Briar Wood 2002, used by permission of the author. Recording from the Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 2004

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