Tuesday poem: Cardboard Crowns by Selina Tusitala Marsh


I’m with
eighteen year olds
we talk about the crisis
in NZ lit
and the problem of reading
they don’t

there’s a fictional yawn from the back

their books weigh down
their bodies not their minds

I’m cooking with five year olds
sculpt flour, yeast, water
mozzarella fingers dip and rise

I keep an eye
on my new starter
his bony body
under an over-confident uniform

he’s educating me
in bravery


I’m baking a cake and roasting a chicken

blowing up gold balloons
taping them to the king’s throne
a creased kindy hat becomes a tama aiga crown
as green spears fan between toetoe heads
over a crayoned five

kids said the chicken was good
it tasted like cake


the eighteen year olds buzz over
Wendt’s ‘Robocop in Long Bay’
theory pop pops the air
V guarana cans
moor the tables
as the book floats away

I throw out a life line
but no one’s read it

the five year olds
are Tagaloa’s boat builders

o le tala i tufuga o le vaa o Tagaloa

they stomp-sing, pull
fell and gnaw with their teeth in the dark
till they see the dawn

they know when to hide
they’ve all read the story

By Selina Tusitala Marsh from fast talking PI (pages 19-21)
Published by Auckland University Press
Used with the permission of Auckland University Press
This poem is part of the Tuesday Poem Scheme.

2 thoughts on “Tuesday poem: Cardboard Crowns by Selina Tusitala Marsh

  1. I love this. The juxtaposition of 5-year-old and 18-year-old kids/adults is perfectly balanced. Really enjoyed the admission that the chicken tasted like cake – such unflinching honesty. Thank you for sharing Selina’s poetry – she is amazing!

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