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

© 2019 by Tupuranga

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