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Te Pūrākau o Taranaki

Arielle Walker

Taranaki dragged himself towards the setting sun


away from the centre of the island carving 

Te Awa Tupua in his wake 

surface tension kept by fish bones

firm beneath the andesite 


came to rest against the edges of Te-Ika-a-Māui

caressed by the hum 

and swell of the sea


and looked back across the distance to Ruapehu.


Skip forward now, there’s no use looking back. 

Skip across the millennia, past tears river-rushing 

to fill the space between the lovers 

past rocks crushing and grinding to keep 

Taranaki at his island edge. Slow down 


let the centuries tick, tick, tick to a halt 

– no, no,                     a little further 

past the wars and the invasion and the wars and the bloodshed and 




Taranaki is granted personhood. 


It’s all there on paper, signed by a crown 

he should never have been beholden to. 

He’s been given all the rights and burdens of any one of us. 

It makes it official in a world where distance is measured not 

by a mountain’s grief but by tickertape’s digital descendants.


Move out from under his shadow – there’s nothing left to hold him back. 

He’ll raise a storm of fire and ash and retrace 

those first furious, limping steps 

to challenge Tongariro once again.


The islandfish will writhe and shudder, whenua will scar anew  

and      maybe 

then we’ll realise 

tūpuna are not ours to own or control. 

all rivers

(after Airini Beautrais FLOW: Whanganui River Poems)


all rivers meet the sea.


rain collapses the silt and soil, we made here home

dug in too deep and caused rifts, fall in, e toto ana i te whenua

we have sliced the tìr, it answers to your blood and bone

caught in the brackish tang of tides


drift the currents, salt to sweet and back again

set them to root in the mountains

there’s still more to come, we stopped listening 

to our tūpuna the wavelength

never alters it’s just harder to hear


the problem is the sky never stopped missing her

they’ll pull close again the wind concurs

we’ll all meet the sea eventually. Like water does. 

to gather: Huihui, all rivers.

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