Span: Journal of the South Pacific Assoc for Cwlth Lit and Language Studies
Number 36, 1992
Postcolonial Fictions:
Proceedings of the SPACLALS Triennial Conference 1992
Edited by Michèle Drouart

Dinner with the Cannibal

Witi Ihimaera

Of course I should have realized, at dinner
That he would be a man of special tastes
His mordant wit and intellect proclaimed him bon vivant
I suppose I was bedazzled by it all
The chandelier, the red roses like stigmata
Too flattered by the invitation
To notice that the table was laid only for hors d'oeuvres

It was understood of course that I was privileged to be there
With him in dinner jacket and black bow tie
The fact that he drank claret should have made me realize
That he liked his meat rare yet, even so
I was take aback when, all of a sudden
he reached across the table to snap off both my legs
As if I was a crisp brown Maori-bread man
Saying, "You won't need these, will you"

The snap and wrench of bone from socket
Sounded louder than I expected, but, the agony was slight
(I've always had a high pain threshold)
What alarmed me more was that my silk trousers were forever ruined
"After all," he said, "a landless man may just as well be limbless"
"And just in case," he added, breaking both my arms,
"This will prevent any further throwing of wet black T-shirts
At Her Majesty"

What could I do? I watched him
Suck the marrow of my bones and tear the meat
That once had made me mobile
I was pleased his manners were impeccable
Not one sweet morsel of me dropped
From his lips - I loved the way
He cracked my toes and fingers open with his teeth
To work the fine gristle for its flavour

He was a gourmet of impeccable sophistication
"That was much better than Aboriginal or Red Indian"
He said, "And I have never liked the taste of Hindu or Pakistani
Too much curry in their diet taints the flesh
You are a repast quite delicious
Almost like Samoan, less fatty than Tongan"
So saying, he proceeded to the main course -

This was my stomach, heart and ribs
Not exactly in that order, for I could not see
What he ate first as he leant forward
With silver knife and fork
To slice the cavity of my breast open
Like a crisp golden chicken
My thoughts were entertained in fact by the memory
Of Noel Coward's witticism about Salote
At the Queen's Coronation in 1953 -
Mister Coward was wise never to visit Tonga -
"Ah, there it is," he said, impaling my heart with his fork
And lifting it from its protective cage
I wept to see its pulsing beauty
But thought - This is only to be expected really
From people who eat and drink the body and blood
Of Christ every Sunday
"Best to rid yourself of this, old chap," he added
"Your Maori yearnings are excessive, you agree?"

I wondered if he was right, after all why yearn
For language and culture already taken, why fight it?
Where does Maoritanga fit in this world of teenage mutant Ninja turtles?
Yet I did protest and fight as he cut through the middle
Of my heart and, seeing that rich blood flow red as a river
Wondered if there was time to escape this dinner

"Oh no you don't" he said, as he began dessert
Dishing the sweetmeats of my body onto a crystal plate
My liver, kidneys and tongue
and last of all, my eyes
Smothering them with strawberries and rich cream
by then, without eyes, I could no longer see
The relish of his enjoyment
Cruelly, he left my brain intact to wonder
Why I had ever accepted his invitation to dine
150 years ago ---

University of Auckland, NZ

New: 7 January, 1997 | Now: 16 April, 2015