Wednesday, January 16, 2008

A poem for Hone

for Hone Tuwhare, 1922-2008.

For years now
the fantail has laughed
in your gnarled branches
and you, bro
have laughed right back in its arse
gone on circling the earth with smoke rings
fingers stained from a lifetime of
roll-your-own words.

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
peel the silver tops off your milk
dip my fingers in stolen cream.
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 came to sow your words
at my school
cast your words over thick carpet
harvest a sparse crop
of whispering tartan.
You looked like you thought
the ground was too hard
maybe it was. You didn’t see me
smuggle the wriggling seedling
back home.

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 Wattie’s 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.

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