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Te Pō

Stacey Teague

there’s a kind of animal who carries the earth


she hides it in her cloak of feathers


they both are silent, eyes sealed shut


in the realm of sleep without sleeping


a light comes from nowhere 


to shadow the jawbone


long black hair gathers neatly at her neck


the pencil-drawn night 


fills in the spaces 


it is a moonless sky


the clouds will not break




when I was eight years old


I knew a girl called Te Pō


she was very tall with long black hair


that sprawled around her shoulders


there was a rumour that she had got her period


many years before the rest of us girls would 


I didn’t like her, for a reason I can’t recall


but I thought she was beautiful


I watched her in the kapa haka group


swinging her poi


I was so jealous


one morning when we got to school


we were told that she had passed away


she was helping her cousins down from a tree


lost her footing, head cracked on the concrete


everyone cried that day


I didn’t




Te Pō reaches out for herself 


in the darkness and finds 


an embrace, she thinks 


her body is my body


as if from behind closed eyelids


they map one another like constellations


each knowing the other to be true


their hair grows together


like a black satin evening gown


while the sun conceals itself


somewhere way out beyond the horizon

Ipu Whenua

we bury the placenta 


in its vessel


pressed deep inside the dirt


not only of the land but as the land




the woman grows things


inside her / outside her


they float to the surface


creating islands




before the birth we etched out spirals


into wood like skin


made shells for eyes


binding the person to place




before they came to tame us


she lay on her back


letting her legs fall either side


hips open on the flax tīenga




she becomes like all things


that are lost / things 


that bleed when 


you cut them up




he wāhine he oneone


i ngaro ai te tāngata

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