Summer 2021





Three Poems

By Daren Kamali

Suva, Fiji, 1920s, Fiji, by Harry Gardiner. Te Papa (PS.002824)
© Suva, Fiji, 1920s, Fiji, by Harry Gardiner. Te Papa (PS.002824)

Under the mango tree

This is Lovers' Spot

12 o'clock

on the dot

Every weekend night

Pandanus mat spread on tarpaulin

Fiji Bitter bottles cling together

Whispers of Taki mai

carried by the night draught

Old village tales entails

Shallow promises - deep secrets and lies

All disappear into the night air

Slippery silver eels intertwine

In the dark

Caressing earlobes with words

Quoted in honey

Secret lovers indulge

Under the mango tree


Every household on Tubou High

Enjoyed vunimaqo’s shade on any given day

Children slung like monkeys

From branch to branch

Playing tag

Shouts from youth -

Hee! Hee - He

You can’t touch me

I’ve watched generations pass through here

Only a few remain in the barracks


Those two uto trees

My most loyal companions

Ever since I can remember

They’ve stood by me

Hurricane Bebe and Cyclone Winston

We’ve stood together in solidarity

Protecting the barracks

We know this land very well

The barrack-land

Also known as


Mangoes Grew Us

Children dance the meke

Hands swaying in the air

chanting to the sun

Little fingers flick

marbles on a muddy patch of ground

under the mango tree

iYau mangoes hung ripe from vunimaqo once

Children still dance under the mango tree

different meke moves now

Hope history never repeats itself

iYau mangoes hang from her branches no more

Nana and Papa nurtured us all

Solo parents and children

Huddled closely at 27 Tubou Street

Mosquito nets tucked under mattresses

on linoleum floors

Women and children in a single bedroom

under the kitchen table and sitting room floor

Morning Novenas

Most Sacred Heart of Jesus defend us in our battles

Laialaia medicine every morning - kept us healthy

Strangers from all walks of life - now family

Meals prepared by the maramas of the house

Men worked the teitei with Papa



Fresh seafood Saturdays from Suva market


Mana and Qari

Altar boy on Sundays - 10am Mass

Lunch under vunimaqo

Strolls to Wailoku Falls in the afternoon

Sing along evenings -

Guitars and ukulele

Strumming Isa Lei melodies into the night

Sosoko mix in kava bowl

Chinese lollies – chases the yaqona down

She is Nana

Tears fall

Like Suva rain

Sleepless nights - countless rosary beads

Between withered fingers

Freshly lit candle burning on the altar

Our Father who art in Heaven - Lord be thy name…

Pacing the front yard, step by step

Bead by bead as hours disappear

Sorrowful Mysteries

Hail Mary full of grace…

She has witnessed children

Bearing babies

Unknown fathers

Generation What Next?

All she ever does is pray

GOD have mercy on us


Violent fathers


Desperate mothers

Sorrowful mysteries

Glory be to the Father - to the Son and the Holy Spirit

She refuses to go

Saying not yet

Growing older

Watching grandchildren grow

Great grandchildren grow

To have children

The cycle continues

Untold stories unfold

Nothing good comes out of the barracks

I came back to visit Nana

To sit under the Mango Tree with her

One last time

For theirs is the kingdom - the power and glory

Forever and ever


About Daren Kamali

Vunimaqo and Me: Mango Tree Collections is Daren Kamali's third poetry publication in almost seven years. The intention behind this publication is to celebrate captive childhood memories within its pages. This collection of memoir poems is written through a teenager’s eyes and experience of 17 years, growing up in the barracks of Tubou Street - Samabula North – Suva – Viti Levu - Fiji. Of Fijian, Uvean, Futunan, Samoan and Scottish heritage, he is the Pacific Poet/Curator/ artist/researcher and Heritage Pacific Advisor - Auckland Libraries (Research and Heritage).

He has a Master of Creative Writing: First Class Honours (University of Auckland 2017), a Bachelor of Creative Arts: (Manukau Institute of Technology 2014), was the Fulbright/CNZ - Pacific Writer in Residence at University of Hawai’i (2012), and did the International Writers program – Iowa City, USA (2014).