More poem sketches from Aotearoa/New Zealand

Dog on the beach

The woman who is his companion says,
“he only chases waves and birds,
things he can’t catch.”

I know so many people like that,
and for some of them
it is the empty snapping of deep sadness —
the uncaught ball
of what they expected life to give,

and for others it is wonder leaping
at sunrise sparkling on water
and the magic of wings in the sky,
living the beauty
of every single day
with no need to capture it
or return wagging for approval.

In the end, I am just a companion,
walking with my friend in the sand,
unclipping the leash,
then, after a while, clipping it on again,
and leading the way home.


Look, everywhere, there is flax,
towering or bending,

in flower when I first arrive,
now past that time,
in dried curled beauty
like my grandmother’s hair,

I imagine it in linen tablecloths
and kete
to carry fish, fruit, everything,
putiputi roses folded by children,
as muka, nets and shoes.

Wharariki, harakeke, ate-raukawa
kōrari, taniwha, flax,
also are we – beautiful, useful.

God of flax,
weave your people together. Amen

putiputi rose

(names for flax with regional variation, muka is prepared fiber (scraped, pounded and  washed, kete is basket)

The remarkable thing about being dark and quiet

I look at the pou whenua carved
to celebrate a hundred years
of hospitality
glad it does not show the fight
to return the caves
from government to whānau.

The tour guide is Stephen,
from Tane Tinorau’s family
now three thousand members strong –
who show the cave he explored.

We go down into limestone hollows,
marvel at the slow witness
to time and water
in stalactite and stalagmite,
gaze at banquet hall, organ pipes,
then come to the Cathedral.

An earlier group sings “Happy Birthday”
in perfect acoustics
but we ask Stephen to sing.
and Te Aroha, Te Whakapono,
Te Rangimarie, Tatou Tatou e,
resonates in any space.

He explains the biology of glowworms ,
how they catch their insect diet
with long sticky strings,
but that any use of our lights
and any noise
will make them unlight themselves.

So we climb into boats,
as Tane Tinorau traveled long ago,
with the echo of aroha,
and lit by creatures who live
so briefly by shining,
we float back into our own lives,
remembering to be dark and quiet.

(Waitomo Glow Worm Cave,
pou whenua –carved wooden posts used by Māori to celebrate a significant place of time, 
whānau — family but more — community
Translation of Stephen’s song:Love,Hope,Peace, For us all.)

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3 Responses to More poem sketches from Aotearoa/New Zealand

  1. mbmankin says:

    What a wonderful time you must be having in Aotearoa! Thanks for sharing your rich experiences, pictures, and reflections!

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