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Jessica Maclean

// these pākehā funerals are weird

where are the waiata tautoko?

after each member of the whānau pani 

Speaks i feel uncomfortable in the attendant 

Silence / because there is this sense

of people wanting to clap or somehow

Acknowledge what is spoken

what it means //


but there is no outlet; the hymns 

are sparsely attenuated and pregnant 

pauses abound in incense-laden 

and  mote-suspended cathedral spaces where so much might be said 

or thought or felt and where 

is the water, that i might whakanoa myself

upon leaving the urupa? // 


/haere, haere, haere ki te pō! /


i am uneasy

i go to the car under the guise of having a 

cigarette // full disclosure: which i also do /

and splash sun-warmed  plastic-tainted 

water over myself from a cheap drink 

bottle and, wordlessly, hope this is sufficient 


// because i don’t know the right karakia /


and funerals are so short

you can’t grieve a whole life 

even in days

two at the house, then three at the marae

mattress-lined walls and a casket 

on the small raised stage at the front

monochrome portraits of ancestors you 

are now one of

fist-sized moths fling themselves at dusk-framed windows

and we speak our lucent grief

and closed caskets are weird too 

// barring blunt-force trauma to the head /


how can i stroke the pain-gnarled 

Hand and kiss the death-smoothed brow

and can christians even go to rarohenga? 

will the devout descend

the root of the pōhutukawa 

that sits at the tip of muriwhenua 

and then leap off where 

the tasman meets te moana-nui-a-kiwa?

will hine nui te pō receive the soul as papatūānuku receives the body?

or perhaps the celestial precincts 

of the māreikura are more appropriate 

what with the ascending to the heavens and everything


jeez i dunno

these pākehā funerals are weird /

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