Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Parihaka Poem

I would have posted this poem earlier but I had it entered in a competition. Since it didn't place there, here it is for your delectation.

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.

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