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,
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