High above Whangarei
the mountain tells a story
of a settlement overgrown
by nikau and ferns,
a story elusive as dreams are
after a new day has begun.
Where only birds
hunt and sleep and sing today,
hundreds of people long ago lived inside
village palisades spiking every ridge line.
Huge pits, now shallowed by generations of leaves,
were filled with kumara grown
in the rich alluvial valley below.
Cold mossy stone squares
mark hearths that glowed with warmth and light,
at the centre of hapu storytelling.
Their mokopuna’s mokopuna
tell stories in other whare now,
still remembering battles on the mountain.
The slick white clay tangata whenua
carved into pits and terraces
was built up over millennia
by the bodies of ancient kauri
transformed with infinite slowness
into a substance so dense
that the earthworks stay true
centuries after the final fleeting
generations were driven out by muskets.
Thus the earth also holds their memory
in the shape of the land
still beneath young trees
as the mountain returns to itself
from a dream of human habitation.