Ria Masae


A Great-Granddaughter’s Quest:
Part II – Flights of Fantasy


The Time Traveller
packs her notebook and sharp-eyed pencil
into her siapo knapsack
for she is venturing on a quest
through three flights of history
in search of the noble slave
that is her great-grandfather.
She walks over “POWER”
stenciled in threshold light
out towards the wharf.



To secure passage on a mirror ship
sailing across milk glass in hexagon light
the Traveller slips into the shipmaster’s coat
a long-haired beauty
swaying her hips to horny sailors
from a Grimshaw tooth
— there are no milking maids
sitting on whale chairs aboard.

After twenty days and twenty nights
at sea, a boy lookout
spies Godwits puppet-strung in flight.



The ship lands on the island
from the Traveller’s dream.
She hacks through a forest of
goliath kauri clovers
that cough up gums of spun amber hair.
A palm sunset mutes light on funeral flowers
under a spider caught in its own clay web.
She comes to a graveyard
and shreds shark teeth across the cheeks
of a ghostly schoolmaster
demanding silence from singing dead children.
A spiral ammonite trumpets the apocalypse.

She runs!

Her pores crying sweat
she halts at a clearing
three oracles assembled in a circle.
The Traveller asks the lizard,
“Please, your Wiseness, where do I go from here?”
The four-legged serpent
tongues a forked silence in the air
its third eye senses light
but cannot see.
The lass moves on
to the wise man of the East
but an Imperial race have tainted him
with toga laws —
halo fractured; enlightenment shadowed.
The girl, feeling hopeful and hopeless
steps in front of forget-me-never eyes
a serpent trunk snorts across the Traveller’s forehead
“To me, you should have come first”
with that, the Traveller falls to the ground
from the elephant’s arsenic touch. 



The Traveller awakens
under a 3-D gateway carved in
700 AD Polynesian patterns.
Dragon-face turtles
swim in black pillar fires
that stand at the entrance
of a confectionary castle.
A butterfly lingers
as the Traveller beats the orient-dog handle
against the rootless tree door.

The Time Traveller steps
inside the whale jaw.
A giant’s kava bowl
floats over a dinosaur table
and welcomes manuia — drink to the skies!
while ivory royals slice a Sunday roast.
She nods at a Maori elder
backed onto a sacrilegious chair
that seated white cushions,
and side-steps
electric branches drooped over a torture chair           
beside a cylinder sink that drains blood and spit.

Up the labyrinth staircase she climbs
then tiptoes through a long dead hall
along the walls, a
cross bleeds poppies
photo faces gaze across at their fallen names
“Let these panels never be filled”ÉAmene.

At last, the Time Traveller
reaches the doorway to her
mother-island’s entangled histories.
A voice in native language orates memories
but she is drawn to the glass coffins
containing life in past images and words.
                       Indentured labourer great-grandfather
                       is that your solemn Chinese face in the photo?
                       are you one of the field faces hidden under those cone hats?
                       is that your bent back clawing the plantation soil?

Her quest has come to nought
for she cannot tell.   



Ria Masae has a BA from the University of Auckland, and is currently studying towards a BCA at MIT (Manukau Institute of Technology).  She’s been a finalist in three Spoken Word Poetry Slams, and won the ‘2015 New – Emerging Poets Competition’.  Her work has been published in Blackmail Press, Potroast, Otoliths, Ika, and has been accepted for publication in the upcoming Landfall journal.   Ria is a member of SAPC (South Auckland Poets Collective).

Masae writes: “Before this poem I wrote ‘A Great Grand-daughter’s Quest I’ which was based on my observations during a Creative Writing class excursion to the Auckland War Memorial Museum. A common critical comment I received regarding ‘Quest I’, was that it shifted too fast between objects and themes, which I agreed with, as one of my intentions was to portray the experience of rushing through the museum, trying to take in as much as possible within a limited time frame.  Nevertheless, I wrote, ‘A Great Grand-daughter’s Quest II’ to create a more cohesive narrative using the dreamlike fantastical ambience that stood out to me in ‘Quest I’. My love of the ‘Fantasy’ genre was highly influential in writing ‘Quest II’.”