I don’t know  Labasa at all. But it’s beautiful. If I had a daughter, I’d name her Labasa.

(Teresia K Teaiwa – ‘My own private Labasa’)

LA- basa by Mere Taito

Over here.

Look beneath my nails
Chunks of Bainisucu still live there
Its gravel, small mountains and golf courses
That calloused my feet
And on - your –marks- get- set- ready- go! –ed
Me back home
Chuckling at the sight of me
Feisty and too free
Tomboy shorts and banana sap stained play shirt
Hair wild and out of place
Anything but woman!

Part this once grass filled hair
Feel the dust of Wainikoro
Still frolicking there with yeasty breadcrumbs
That came later
As unlikely as two playmates can be.

Turn my head
And carefully
You might disturb the ghost of a Labasa College
Head girl badge dangling from my right falinga
Muniama once boxed
When I shot her bullets of cheek
Still , girl
Hardly woman.

Lift my lashes
Fall deep into the brown
Stolen  from a dress
My mother
A gentlewoman from Malha’a
Bought from Dayaram Gangaram
And drown in its chocolate.

Here, these contours
The FSC hills of my breast
Making sugar,
Especially now,
DD fuller!

Bring your hand
Let it know the tautness of
My calves and buttocks
We made these muscles
Aggie Gibson and me
She hers and me mine
Cycling 20 kms to Malau on borrowed bikes
17 and still virgins
the sun latched onto our backs
like miraging backpacks
laughing silently at our talk of ‘when I leave school…’

Run your fore finger gently
Over the scar on my knee
The tree of the carrot mango
Shook me out of its branches
Onto waiting earth
Who opened her mouth, bit hard and chastised,
‘ Serves you right for stealing!’
My other mother,
Determined to have a say
in my journey to womanhood.

Did you see it?
The scurry in my feet?
shackled on from the growl of Mua’s white
FSC Land rover
Announcing his arrival and  the promise of an in faliang
If he caught the muffled cries of shut home work books
And the complaints of ice block stained school uniforms
Still with frame
Yarning with Darshana and Pinky next door.

Cup your ears now
Hear my Labasa.

The boom! in my loud
Echoing unexpected blasts of bargass fueled boilers
As they called their magic
To burn the juice of the cane into rich thick molasses

The sound of koinized Hindi in my voice
The work of my tongue,
Seeking pit stops in alveo and dent street
As did Arti’s and Reshmi’s
And Satya’s,
Dear ole biani
Who laughed with her bangles and mangal sutra
When my tongue stopped at Saraswati’s
Rickety push push  sweet cart instead and attempted,
‘Ek jelebi de. Ket na?
Ha rait. De do.’

‘Bahut pagli larki!
She’d say.

Did you notice?
This larki is now woman
Still pagli though
The kind she wants to keep

Stand closer
Cup better  
Thudding in her
In harmony with the fara’s jou gita
the sound of the dhapla
She caught in a kite
On a hill
Beneath the mandarin tree
When the goinda parade passed below
Ignoring a time
Trying so desperately to catch her gaze
Turning only
When  clanging worshippers disappeared
Into the trees
Setting her free
Releasing her
To walk in to the arms of a future.