At the Minibar: Red Blooded Males, Poukahangatus, Tayi Tibble
Tayi Tibble’s poetry has been described as speaking to activism, power and popular culture with compelling guile, darkness, a deep understanding and sensuality. It dives through noir, whakama and kitsch and emerges dripping with colour and liquor. There’s whakapapa, funk (in all its connotations) and fetishisation. The poems map colonisation of many kinds through intergenerational, indigenous domesticity, sex, image and disjunction. Poukahangatus is her first book. This is an excerpt from her first book Poukahangatus, a sequence of 6 poems called Red Blooded Males.
Red Blooded Males
Your father didn’t speak to me
the first two times I saw him. You said
you used to go hunting together sometimes
for weeks on end, hardly speaking.
I imagine the two of you
silently camouflaged and deceiving
weepy-eyed does drinking from the foot
of a waterfall, innocent
to the sound of size 11 boots
crushing the life out of clovers. It’s funny
the difference between what you notice
and what takes notice of you.
Your mother’s dresser covered in pig tusks
and ram skulls housing silver rings and
a single bottle of Estée Lauder foundation
too pink for me to use but made her look
like rare meat. Seven lucky stag heads stabbed
into the walls made her feel like she was
being watched at all times. I should’ve helped
her cook and wash the dishes. Instead I drank
Heinekens until I was slack-jawed enough to
make fun of his music. The only metal I like
is gold and hangs around the neck of a rapper.
He positioned his thumb and trigger finger
on the dial, turned it up, and smiled I said no—
I’ve never been hunting. I’m a vegetarian
but I did see a taxidermy cat in a feather headdress
pulling a tiny wooden chariot at a museum once.
After your mother left him, he came down
to visit us. We went to a bar filled with dried flowers
and left-over Halloween decorations.
I comment on the little plastic skeletons
between sips, and he says You strike me as a details girl—
whatever that means. But coolly I said yeah.
I try to notice things. I’m a modern city woman.
I practice mindfulness. I’m trying to reach nirvana.
When it’s my turn to buy the drinks he tells his friend
to slip me a Ngata, and he puts it in my bra.
When drunk and asked what I would do
if I was lost in the forest and I came across
what I thought was a fire in the distance
I said I would get scared and die
like that time I was on the Hair Raiser in Luna Park
overlooking Sydney and felt my soul leave my body
in an easy resignation. He said,
You don’t strike me as the type of girl who would just give up.
I shrugged. I didn’t know I had anything worth
giving up in the first place. Once mum tried
to scare my sister and I by grabbing us
as we finished our makeup in the bathroom.
I froze and tried to slip down the wall. My sister
punched her in her nose. Not sure who learned
what that day, but she’s fire and I’m stone.
The only time your father ever hit you
was when you pointed your shotgun
in his direction.
The number one rule of hunting is
never aim your gun at anything
you don’t intend to kill.
He brought his palm to your head
and the words still rattle around
in your skull like tinnitus.
So you didn’t hear me wince when
you showed me the skin of a deer
you killed at 16, spotty like Bambi
cos you shot her in the summer.
Your Father walked in eating a bowl
of mince, laughed and showed me his
kill, because his kill was bigger.
In your childhood bedroom I made you
cover the taxidermy boar on the wall
with a towel before I even thought about
taking my clothes off. You touched me
but pulled your hand away quickly
cos I was hot and slimy like a deer heart.
Your embarrassment softened you
into confession. Admitted that once
you accidently shot an expecting mother
and watched with pooling horror as your father
plunged his bare hands into the burning carcass
and pulled the baby out. You watched him
snap it’s neck. You thought he would
give it mouth to mouth. He wiped
his hands on your khaki t-shirt and
your mother couldn’t wash it out.