Cape Reinga

Ki mai koe ki ahau

He aha te mea nui o te ao?

Maki e ki atu

He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.


I am told there are people who do not care for maps,

And find it hard to believe.  (Up here,

The wind is persistent, the houses still as the grave.

The sheepdogs lie on the grass

And glance philosophically about them.)

This is smoke-down time, this is your rag-butt end

Of a decaying semester, where people,

Moved by some ribald hocus-pocus of the soul

To some obscure…

And God knows what…


They say Captain Cook had sight of

Te Waha-o-Rerekohu, which in turn

Had welcomed the Arawa canoe of the Great Fleet,

This giant Pohutukawa on the long pathway at Te Araroa,

With her canopy spread of forty metres

The oldest Pohutukawa in the world.

These gnarled and tortured branches also stretch above

The cataract falls of Karekare, or stand alone, aflame

At water’s edge, eschewing society of trees

– Ngaio, lacebark, golden kowhai, white manuka

The rata, the kahikatea, the dead silence of the kauri forest –

The blood-red blossom bursting forth

As crimson as the redcoats lying on the beach

(Te Paranga Pa they never took by force).

Thus Pohutukawa groves make tapu

An ancient site of battle,

Metrosideros excelsa.

Nectar to the tui.


As kuaka godwits muster, screaming

Over Cape Maria van Diemen

Te Maori mourn another passing spirit.

Their murmuration never ceasing, Maori know

(Without recourse to social media sites)

There has been great and doleful massacre.

Where the stream Kapo-Wairua runs

Into Tom Bowling Bay, demons try

To snatch the souls, hurrying

To Muriwhenua at Land’s End,

Lacerated with obsidian flakes,

Crowns of thorns

Knotted into death’s chaplets.

Here, before the oceans’ confluence, Tatu-o-te-Po

The last Pohutukawa

Leans down to the surf.

The disembodied spirits of the dead

Follow the Ara Whanui a Tane:

Ki ro kauwhau o te riri

Ka rere koe

I te Hiki o te Ika e-e!   

What sign for those who come after?


Hi iwi Kotahi tatau

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s