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  • Song of the Banyan Tree
  • Sia Figiel (bio)

We bless the feast prepared by Hinenuitepo’s daughter As we gather around the table Dan’s silence draws a lizard around Lufi’s ankle And the mokopuna conspire to explore the streets of Waikīkī But not before they wash the dishes warns Reina While you catch black rainbows in the palms of your hands Each cocooning a memory of the childhood you spent on the lap Of Aunty Ita Listening to her weave yarns of legendary giants along with Aesop’s cunning foxes while piglets squeal on the malae at Malie So long ago while we talked of your visits with Kenzaburo Oe And the personal matter of his son’s autistic genius And the books we’d read before the Volcanic Goddess Stretched out on abstract canvas Before the Vateatea too Depicting the memory of time and space Suspended above the wings of flying foxes And cicadas Birthplace of the black star Of the shaman of visions toward A new Oceanic journey that spans decades Pioneering treacherous terrain Shattering paradisical facades Reclaiming our humanity in the stories of us . . . Bittersweet in their recollections of mountains and men And mountains and women drowning In their own weaknesses Gasping in their own strengths Under the leaves of the banyan tree Surviving the fa‘a Sāmoa which is perfect they sd Until the flying fox in a freedom tree sings no more [End Page 273] While Mele the matriarch combs her hair in the mirror without a reflection Reflected between the lines of every poem Alofa for the dead That live inside us Nurturing our imaginations of ancestors across continents Across time and space Feeding too the madness that drives old men to shake the status quo While women give birth to sons for the return home And miracle men And men of talent who swindle A nation’s innocence for corrugated tin Houses and flash cars and athletic shoes Made in Taiwan While galupo crash on the rocks of Pouliuli Out there in the distance Where we once belonged pondering existentialism Barefoot on communal lava fields Conversing with the Gods The ancestors of Pili Owls Half-men half-eels begetting the descendants of the War Goddess Son of the Vaipe Self-exiled but you always long for the green mauga of Vaea Sheltering the tears of Apaula

We bless the feast you’ve prepared for us And in return we feel blessed as we follow in your footsteps Aware of the privilege we have to be a part of your song Aware too of how terribly lucky we are to call ourselves Descendants of the mountain Descendants of the whetu moana Descendants of the banyan tree . . .

We gather now to sing in y(our) genealogical tree Sing! Sing! Sing!

Our voices will be heard on the streets of Aukilagi London/Pretoria/New Delhi/Tokyo/New York/Buenos Aires And throughout the vasaloloa of Oceania [End Page 274]

Mili mili mili mili mili

Pati a!

Lua pati ma le po!

Ua fa‘afetai Ua fa‘afetai Ua malie mata ‘e va‘ai Ua tasi lava oe Ua tasi lava oe I lo‘u nei fa‘amoemoe . . .

Sia Figiel

Sia Figiel, internationally acclaimed Samoan author of Where We Once Belonged (1996), has had her work translated into at least eight languages. Author of two novels, a novella, a collection of poetry, and a collaborative spoken-word cd, she works and lives with her sons in American Sāmoa.



mythological lover of Vaea who cried tears (Loimata o Apaula) after discovering Vaea had turned into a mountain



fa‘a Sāmoa

the Samoan way


night waves


Māori goddess of death


space in the middle of a Samoan village used daily for sports and on occasion for ceremonies.


village in Sāmoa known as the origin place of the Malietoa clan, where Al was raised




Māori grandchild


lizard, god of old Sāmoa


darkness; refers to one of Al’s novels


Samoan warrior who turned into a mountain after waiting for his beloved Apaula


Dead Water; refers...


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pp. 273-276
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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