an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

Poems by Ria Masae


Ria Masae

Published on
page 13 of Tarot #2
(June 2021)

At least it keeps me slim, aye hun.
Don’t feel like eating much when
everything tastes like boiled potato.

She watches Mama through the window.
She knows from their visits to the hospital that the death smog
Mama sucks in has already scythed the taste buds on her tongue.
The glass blocks the vapour coiling out of Mama’s nostrils from stinging her eyes
but it doesn’t barrier the sound of Mama’s coughing fits
that rattle as dry as shed snakeskin.

She wonders if the inside of Mama’s nasal canals is as bald as her head.
She drags her eyes from the cobra dance of wispy smoke
to the blue and green magnet on the fridge door.
Tomorrow, Mama will ring the number stamped on it.

She will observe Mama’s shoulders sag as murmurs
of regret and frustration are cried into the phone.
Then will come the ten slow breaths,
prayers to cast out Pestilence and her pale horse.

Mama will strain a crooked smile under the
dried streaks of tears on skin like sallow wallpaper
then crush a dry kiss on her cheek
and announce in forced optimism,

This time, I promise, aye hun.
I won’t stop trying to quit.
After all, no one likes a quitter.

when the sun sets at sunrise

Ria Masae

Published on
page 15 of Tarot #1
(Dec 2020)

If I were Earth
and you were Mountain,
would my love be satisfied
as soft foundation
under the craggy arches
of your stony feet?


If I were Free Spirit
and you were King,
would you hold my love ransom
like crown jewels on a ship
in an attempt to anchor
my travelling thoughts?


If we basked in the sun
setting between our crow’s feet
would our love deteriorate
into tattered bookmarks
slid between pages of history,
repeating predictable comfort?



If I were Necromancer
and you were Priest,
would we love in a way
we’re not supposed to love
but suppose that’s the way love
lives then dies, anyway?


If I hated what you stood for
and you were Poet,
would words from your
burning pencil
thaw my cold doubts
before they stencilled themselves in snow?


If I were Boy
and you were Girl,
why must our love grow adult?
Can’t we daydream forever as children
soaring our wings through mud
and moon walking on raindrops?

Drifting Threshold

Ria Masae

Published on
page 58 of Tarot #1
(Dec 2020)

A doorway stands at the throat of the world.
Pulsing light dazzles the upper half
             gloom blackens the bottom.
Are rapture and misery so side-by-side?

a ball of moon is indented with potholes
from when it was still malleable
and rolled across a gravel night.
Then the zenith blasted the sky into soot.

A grey patch coughs
a dull glow around the night’s orb.
             If I tip-toe and stretch my bones across the sea
             I can almost pluck it from the sky.

the veins of the sea froths as its pelt ripples —
ocean tongues hunt in packs —
they ride onto the shore to lick my feet
then ebb back to circle the doorway
never drifting me with them
to the ever-turning wheel of life and death.

             They tease me.
             They torment me.

For there,
across the world
stands my silhouette


Ria Masae

Published on
page 45 of Tarot #2
(June 2021)

because my mother sang Samoan and English nursery rhymes and lullabies
because vibrant illustrations and dramatic stories in my cousins’ children’s biblical set
because Mrs Plank and her bag of poetry tricks at primary school
because Bess (dear Bess) and her Highway Man
because the pen is gentler than the sword
because the page doesn’t judge, it just waits and listens
because paper absorbs grief and bitterness safely
because art speaks a thousand truths when the artist is cowering
because the interaction of words, imagery and emotions
because compliments and ego
because I miss the laughs and stories of beloved bodies who have returned to spirit
because I’m nostalgic for the celestial womb
because I walk through the valley of the vā
because pain is sometimes necessary
because secrets aren’t meant to be dangerous
because I’m no longer afraid
because they told me not to talk about it
because I stopped giving a fuck what they told me
because I hate you
because I use to hate me
because he said I’m nothing like my father
because sometimes I don’t have the capacity to voice my depression,
            trauma and anxiety in a coherent sentence
because of the heartfelt stories I receive in return
because I occasionally weep for both the sorrow and grace of humankind
because not enough people were writing about sexual abuse and mental health
because what if that was me?
because that was / is me
because empathy in a world where too many people don’t give a shit
because how do you know they’re not Jesus?
because be like Jesus
because hurt
because healing
because I burn and I rise
because fist pump to the underdogs
because I am breathing and this is living from seed to dust
because my capacity to love overflows my ‘Best Mum in the World’ mug
because I’m not a slut who asked for it after all
because the scared little girl who was hiding in the dark since 1980 has finally stepped
            into the sunlight
because fly little one, fly.