Viewport width =
August 5, 2019 | by  | in Features Poetry | [ssba]

Advice from my dad:

“It’s not always what you say, it’s how you say it”


When you ask me if I’m algood, the tone in which it is asked will dictate my response. 


I watch to see if the curves of your mouth betray a sly smile, or if your eyes stay hardened as they look back into mine. I watch as you clench your fist, the whites of your knuckles starting to show. I listen as your breathing quickens, awaiting whatever rebuttal I have. I feel as the air around me tenses and slows, as if the world is bearing witness to what is about to occur.


Then I smile.

“I’m algood, you?”


My eyes light and warm, my mouth fixed in a coy grin. My hands down my side and open, awaiting an embrace. My breathing deep and measured, to keep me calm. The air drifting through, cooling hotter heads and whispering encouraging words. 


Then you smile. 

“Yeah safe toko”


One phrase said in two ways. Two situations, with the negative one successfully negated. 

It’s not always what you say; it’s how you say it. Thanks dad. 


As my hands trace your face, I wonder if it lines with where your tears ran. As my hands part your hair, I wonder if you felt the same skin. As I kiss your cheek, I wonder if you’ll feel it wherever you are. 


Anger and hatred belies the tears that flow when I’m alone. 

Without you in this house, it no longer feels like my home. 

Throwing hands with anyone who dares to throw around your name

Stepping out people who don’t realise what I’m going through, as opposed to stepping up for the people who feel it the same.

Heart breaking as our family dynamic tears at the seams.

Smiling faces sing your praises not knowing how much that really means. 

I don’t want to go school no more, because you’re not there to pick me up after. 

I don’t want to tell jokes and goof around, because I know that I won’t hear your laughter. 

I don’t let no one put hands on me because I know their hits won’t be as sore. 

I fight with mum and my siblings because I’m hoping you come back to tell me no more. 

I forget who I am, lost in my own head, with no one there to remind. 

I destroy myself, an empty crab shell of the son you left behind. 

Too sad to stay, too scared to leave, no longer willing to fight. 

But keep the faith, envision your face, telling me, “Nah you’ll be alright.”

And I am. I really am. 

I survived the storm and am finally starting to come right. 

Nightmares are far and few in between, I can enjoy my dreams and finally make it through the night. 

I’ve grown comfortable with who I am, in my skin, happier than can be.  

I have a kid now, and when I look at her I wonder, is this how you used to look at me?

I’m working on dreams and in the kitchen I can cook what you used to, though not as good. 

I’m at school again, getting educated, but still from Newtown repping the hood. 

I’ve learnt not to talk as much, use my writing to deal with the thoughts in my head. 

I’ve learnt to be more honest, that way I don’t have to remember what I’ve said. 

I still struggle with my anger and have a wandering eye. 

And I haven’t quite managed to tell the drugs and drink goodbye. 

But I’m trying. Putting my faith in God to lead me, with me as his cattle. 

Like you told me, as long as I’m trying, then I’ve already won half the battle. 



About the Author ()

Comments are closed.

Recent posts

  1. VUW Halls Hiking Fees By 50–80% Next Year
  2. The Stats on Gender Disparities at VUW
  3. Issue 25 – Legacy
  4. Canta Wins Bid for Editorial Independence
  5. RA Speaks Out About Victoria University Hall Death
  6. VUW Hall Death: What We Know So Far
  8. New Normal
  9. Come In, The Door’s Open.
  10. Love in the Time of Face Tattoos

Editor's Pick

Uncomfortable places: skin.

:   Where are you from?  My list was always ready: England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, puppy dogs’ tails, a little Spanish, maybe German, and—almost as an afterthought—half Samoan. An unwanted fraction.   But you don’t seem like a Samoan. I thought you were [inser

Do you know how to read? Sign up to our Newsletter!

* indicates required