Rob Hack

Taking Mum Back to Raro in 2002

My first visit to Raro will be her last.
One hour out of Fiji she forgets
wants to get off the plane thinks it’s the train
to Paraparaumu Beach.

We land with my knees shaky
to a Numanga song and ukulele,
soon we wear an ‘ei each round our necks
get a coach to Sunrise Bay Motel and presto we’re in,
in Ngatangiia, at midnight.
The manager greets us with 40 proof breath,
a cigarette bounces with every word
pushed from red painted lips.

Mum coughs all night,
wrong medication they say
when we get back in a fortnight.
Next day her lower legs her feet swell
she can hardly walk.

We sit out the front. It’s lovely.
This place is like Rarotonga she says.
Her back aches from the new bed.
She doesn’t complain 
just lets me know.
I find a gravestone outside the
front door with the name Akaiti Crummer.
Mum, Annie Crummer
have you heard of her? She…

They were teachers, she interrupts,
from a village along the road.
George, he was European looking and Tom
he was very dark. They were this
and they were that.

I read some Eliot for my brain while she rifles through her
jewellery again and again and again.
I hire a car for five hundred down, we need it now
to get around as the rain arrives, falls
on stray dogs and potholed drives.
We cruise in the wet past Titikaveka to Wigmores
for supplies, get a flat on the way back.
Mum sits looking cool, I get out and swear.
A young boy pushing a bike stops, watches my demise
from tidy dress to soaking mess.

Tapping on the car window
flat tyre, I lip sync twice.
She pulls a face, Oohh! How did that happen?
I read her lips through the watery glass
and shrug. It pours down.

By the time we’re back it’s clearing, warm, steamy.
On a verandah some guy sitting,
watching his wife do the cleaning.
He knows of mum. He watches
her slow walk to the cabin.
He was mates of her adopted brother Tutai.
Small island.

Inside, Mum smiles, that was nice we can go home now.
Yes after a snooze. Ok?
She frowns, pokes her tongue at the tablets
takes the cup of water
then lies on the bed.
Soon it’s quiet.

Two geckos eyeball each other on the ceiling.
They approach like strangers at a dance.
Maybe they’ll fight to the death!
Mum coughs.
I dry off to the sound of the rolling sea
and her deep sleep breathing.





Contents | Next | About this Author