Te Pūrākau o Taranaki
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
then we’ll realise
tūpuna are not ours to own or control.
(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.