Homage to Tongan poets
I suppose I didn't stop to wonder about the propriety of writing about Siua because the man is a public figure in Tonga and in the Tongan diaspora. Everyone knows his story; most people know his music.
But some of Siua's friends in the Seleka Club, the bastion of Nuku'alofa's nonconformists and creatives, recently gave me the wonderful news that the rapper had given up drugs, reignited his marriage, and begun to make music again. This sort of extraordinary transformations is not uncommon in Tonga, where notions of self are less cumbersome than in the West, and personae can be worn and cast off easily. Womanisers and boozers can become, overnight, puritanical men of God; implacable critics of the monarchy and the state church can suddenly kneel before the king and at the altar.
I apologise to Siua if this poem perpetuates an outdated image. I hope to meet him again soon in Nuku'alofa, and write about his renewed musical career.
The second part of the poem in Landfall reflects my divided feelings about ancient Tonga. I am fascinated by the beautiful artefacts of the Tongan empire - the layers of cut stone that decorate the graves of kings and their court poets, the sacred birds and knife-like moons incised on deadly and elegant war clubs - but repulsed by the class divisions of that society, and the way thousands of commoners dug gardens and dragged stones for the benefit of a few royals and chiefs. I feel the same way about the glorious but barbaric empires of ancient Egypt and Rome.