For years now
the piwakawaka has laughed
in your gnarled branches,
and you, bro, have laughed right back
into its fanned arse
gone on circling the earth
with smoke rings,
fingers stained from a lifetime of
I remember finding your old place. Didn't even know
what poetry was then,
only that I could break in through your back door
wobble along drunken fence posts, steal your milk.
You would have laughed eh
to see this skinny oriental kid
with flat black fringe swaying on a stage
in Devonport. A kid with the words
of an old Maori in her mouth.
Later you tried to
sow your words at my school
casting your voice over thick absorbent carpet,
harvesting a sparse crop
of blue and green tartan chests.
You looked like you thought
the ground was too hard
maybe it was. You didn't see me smuggle
the wriggling seedling back home with me.
When I won the world and lost it again
my sister found your words
growing wild through the house
posted me a piece
packaged with a beeswax candle
and a can of Watties' baked beans.
I remember washing the tears off my body
with your river water. I remember the cool feel
of your words in my crevices.
Last month, I finally
waved my thanks out the window
as the wind blew us
past Te Kaka Point.
I'm glad I had the chance to say thanks, bro.
A mighty tree has fallen,
his seedlings still stand tall.
Tihei mauri ora, tihei mauru ora.
I found this a few nights ago when I was looking for poems to read tonight - I am guest poet at Poetry Live - 8 pm, Thirsty Dog on K Rd, for those of you in Auckland. I'll be doing mostly 'unheard' pieces, including some from my upcoming chapbook-that's-been-a-year-in-the-publishing, Toward the Cyclone, poems I wrote while on a study tour of Fiji last year. My friend Andrew Correa is guest musician, and we'll be jamming together on some pieces.
I wrote this poem a few years ago when Hone Tuwhare died - every time I read his poetry I'm reminded of how much he has influenced the way I approach poetry. Hone was someone who went for the 'heart' of an idea - there was a bit of 'head' in there too, but never at the expense of connecting with the real feeling behind it, the 'why' of writing that poem in the first place. That's why most of his poetry doesn't feel 'academic' (a good thing in my opinion) - even though Hone's poetry is now very much studied at a scholarly level.
Poetry to me has always been about speaking my personal stories and viewpoints. Even the 'character' or 'story' poems are written by channeling someone else's viewpoint through my writerly alter ego - the words I choose are the ones which make me respond a certain way about that story.
Anyway, back to prepping for the reading - please visit Tuesday Poem for more awesome poetry!