How Ra Slowed Down Maui

Selina Tusitala Marsh Click to read more...

Selina MarshSelina Tusitala Marsh was the first person of Pasifika descent (Sāmoan, Tuvaluan, English, and French) to graduate with a PhD in English from the University of Auckland.  She is currently a Senior Lecturer, specializing in New Zealand and Pacific Literature, Postcolonial Literature, and Creative Writing; her critical and creative work focuses on giving voice to Pacific communities. She was selected to be a Poet Olympiad for the 2012 London Olympics, and her first collection of poetry, Fast Talking PI (Auckland University Press, 2009), won the 2010 New Zealand Society of Authors Jessie Mackay Best First Book Award for Poetry and made the top five Best Sellers List shortly after publication. She is currently writing her first critical book, investigating first wave Pacific women poets who publish in English.  Selina’s second collection of poetry, Dark Sparring, is forthcoming from AUP in 2013.

For millennia
Ra, the Sun
streaked madly across the sky
searching for
The One.

Nothing would deter her
not the mandarins on the trees, greening
not the piggy-backing possums, keening for warmth
not humankind, groping in the dark before their work was done.

She burned with red passion
scalding hunger
yellow need
pure white loneliness.

Then one day she glimpsed

Maui.

Flexing, stretching, sunning
himself epigrammatically
on parched beach rocks
his brown skin, cock, shone
through sea salt sweat.

His muscles, ocean ripples
softly calling
from deep moana green
Gasping, Ra stopped
to stare
at his lavalava hair hung
over shoulders
through the valley between his blades.

Moaning, Ra stopped
to stare
some more.

The earth started singing.

Mandarins sunned their skins
leaves unfurled in wind
Tui warmed their throats
Kea expanded in light
shaking darkness from their feathers
humankind remembered the day
and momentarily
thought about play.

Maui looked up
their eyes met.
Whakama to be caught glaring so
Ra fled.

Once again
earth was dark.

Ra burned with love
had become
afraid.

Maui burned with contempt
vowed
to make her pay.

He would trap her, capture her, slow her down.

With his brothers he wove a magic net
that could withstand Ra’s wrath.

But Ra was not in the dark.

Ra heard of the plan
from the loquacious fantail
whose song could always be bought for a good joke or two.

There was no flax net, magic or not,
that could slow down the mightiest She-star in Te Kore.
There was no demi-god who could out-power, out-shine
out-manoeuvre the galaxy’s greatest fire-ball
who dictated day and night,
light and dark.

But Ra could feel her heart turn towards Maui
pull her towards Maui
her shadow Maui
her bottomless ocean Maui
her stellar remnant Maui
her black hole Maui.

The thought of having his arms round her
pulled close to him
towards earth
towards death
was alluring
to say the least.

Maui and his brothers worked
three days and three nights
weaving magic fibres.

They waited on a hill in the east for Ra to rise.
They would beat her into submission
slow her down for good.

Ra was wise to their plans
But her heart eclipsed her mind
As she savoured each preparatory moment
when she was his sun, his moon, his stars.

She would only be ensnared
by herself.

 


Note: In classical Māori mythology, Maui, the trickster demi-god, captured the sun and beat it in order to slow its rapid trajectory across the sky and lengthen the days.

whakama: ashamed

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Discussion

2 Responses to How Ra Slowed Down Maui

  1. Jillian Oyama says:

    This poem is interesting to me because it is the same basic story as a Hawaiian story I was told in elementary school. In that version, Maui is a demi-god and he reigns in the sun for his people on Mount Haleakala, a dormant volcano on the island of Maui (now named after him). I like this version because it focuses on tension between Ra and Maui, and it is a very different story, in which Ra loves Maui, and he attempts to slow her down. I especially like the third stanza’s use of colors that help create Ra’s feelings for him, using colors associated with the sun but also with love. In addition the use of dark and light, in relation to both Ra as the sun, and day and night, as well as the metaphorical dark place that Maui seems to be in. The last line is also beautiful, saying that in love, you can only trap yourself.

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