Leilani Tamu


The Alcazar


remants of the old Apia Alcazar are less than a memory
now, a romantic secret

hidden in the folds of disintegrating maps
and forgotten memoirs

locked away in archives invisible even to the all seeing
eye of the great god Google

in its place our family shop stood for a time, papa’s humble
abode, where he made a name

before Cyclone ‘Ofa came and swept away his fortune
(and his heart) in one blow


in the ‘60s on the balcony The Boomerang Club was all
the rage, it was the hip place

to be (if you were into whisky) while down below nana would sell
ice-cream behind the counter

sporting her proud Tutuila smile, as she tried to ignore the odd Apia snub
with her swollen belly, full of dreams

(six to be exact) she would turn her eyes askance, as the formula passed
hands under the counter

on its way to Apia village for the baby he didn’t mention
for another fifty years


nowadays a big pink elephant sits on the site, a gluttonous monolith with an unending appetite for prayer and devotion

every night      gone are the days of beer, skittles and rollerskates, Apia’s sordid history has been rewritten

to make our ancestors look like saints gone smitten
while the truth remains

locked away in archives, invisible even to the all seeing
eye of the great god Google



Leilani Tamu is a Polynesian poet, former New Zealand diplomat and freelance journalist. Leilani has recently moved back to New Zealand after six years working abroad in Tonga and Australia. Leilani writes a regular column for New Zealand’s Metro Magazine and has a Master of Arts degree in Pacific History. Her first book of poetry The Art of Excavation is due out in early 2014. It is being edited by Siobhan Harvey and published by Beatnik.

Tamu writes: “The poem ‘The Alcazar’ was inspired by the discovery of an early twentieth century map of the township of Apia, Samoa. The map noted the existence of the Apia Alcazar in the same location as the land which later became the site of Leilani’s great-grandfather’s trading shop. The same section of land is now occupied by the John Williams Building, which is owned by the London Missionary Society (Lotu Taiti) who brought christianity to Samoa in the 1830s.”