O! Angaanga

By | 15 February 2023

for Shell

the moana washes up
what she doesn’t take
her detritus crackling gifts
glimmering on the shore
the sea in its own set of armour
the sea that puddles around on sand
like open mouths gargling
some kind of thought
that slowly assembles in the depths
and there it lives a very gay life
until the beach calls
and it knows that ia will come

O! Angaanga

O! Angaanga

the beach calls
is it some dumb gay poet
calling their friend on the phone?

O! Angaanga

rising from the waves
covered in molluscs
with a cap made of coral
you wear backwards
serving some ancestral fuckboi realness
covered in kelp that falls
like a kaakahu from your shoulders
spiders crawl from the places
that you hid them
to travel safe
under the moana

we watch as their legs skitter
with the glisten of the sand in the sun

O! Angaanga

those red streaked babes
find their homes
in the driftwood
where they multiply
go look at my house
they say to each other
doesn’t it just
make you hot
to think about
such security?

sitting in a bath with
two locked doors
between you and the world

O! Angaanga

the seagulls
play a tune
that goes a little bit like
and a little bit like
‘But It’s Better If You Do’
cracking creatures
against whatever hardness they can find here
whatever certainty

we dance there
arms waving at the sun
bodies reaching for something
close to stability
as the gulls continue
to feed

O! Angaanga

the sea is still draining from your ears
I go to say the way the water falls from
your open mouth reminds me
of that one Doctor Who special
where David Tennant plays up the worst
of his version of the Time Lord
which is umm saving people’s lives
when he’s not meant to

but I don’t actually say that

the episode ends with Captain Adelaide Brooke
killing herself to teach him a lesson
about fixed points in
is there anything in your past you wouldn’t change?

while the water flows you cannot speak
so you use your hands instead
and I try my best to understand
try my best to pretend

O! Angaanga

you’re on a towel now
dripping in the passenger’s seat
the sea creatures once alive
now folding off you in clumps
their reliable transportation
turned into a death trap

we’re stuck in South Auckland traffic
the car idles its fumes upwards

O! Angaanga

where do we go now?

in this imaginary scenario
do you still live where you did
in Takaanini
would we sit in your lounge
with kuumara creeping over the carpet
struggling harakeke into different
passing lines back and forth
about dear dear
you would pull out an obsidian blade
and scrape along the leaf
till the muka
becomes something worth weaving
while I make increasingly deranged putiputi
I would leave on the table as a gift
when it’s time for me to go

O! Angaanga

when I write
I never cut
away from the heart

O! Angaanga

you’re unsure if you belong on land
after so long under the ocean
teaching schools of fish
what the hook means

this land is yours through whakapapa
any amount of time away
cannot be held against that connection;
a dull knife that makes the cord
sing rather than cutting

O! Angaanga

we follow the waters south
to Ootaakaro
tuna hugging the river floor while rakiraki
bob their bodies up and down
bills placed to snap
whatever moving thing would fit

when we get out
looking for the hotel I’m staying in
we only notice we’re going the wrong way
some five minutes’ walk past
what is the biggest building
in Christchurch

and a black statue of Victoria

she was never here but
she’s never left

O! Angaanga

I feel sick every time
the Tainui rules around
poowhiri are listed
a dress shirt and pants for taane
a dress with a respectable length for waahine
taane sit up front
waahine in the back
all black
thank God
for colonisation
thank God for the sorrow of Queen Vic
and young Albert getting typhoid


O! Angaanga

God gave Noah salvation
in Uenuku’s peacocking
said all the flooding is over
for now
except not really

the rainbow in the oil spill
the rainbow in the gay flag
the rainbow in the spinning crystal in the window
the rainbow in the Pink Floyd T-Shirt design
the rainbow in the paaua

O! Angaanga

you’ve grown obsessed
with dried seaweed
going through a packet a day
always offering me some
with a gritty grin
before popping the next sheet in

I always decline
too salty I say
knowing full well it’s not the salt
that gets me but the texture

you joke that it’s better than
filling your lungs with smoke
a prior addiction
that steadied you through
turbulent currents
in the homes of our kauheke
all those taonga paaua become ashtrays
the eyes of the stars
smothered with cigarette butts

O! Angaanga

there were twins racing toy boats
on the Kaiapoi river
when you told me you wanted kids
but didn’t want to carry them
like the arachnids formerly
hugged under your skin
which were all like real small
compared to a human baby

I think it was here where
I let go of a future I had held
so foolishly
and left it for all the trout
in the tributary

O! Angaanga

grey clouds hang at the Denny’s car park
like solemn watchers
we’re back in South Auckland now
never did figure out if the Ootautahi Denny’s was real

in this shitty weather we’re slow to move
giving questions to the dashboard
asking whether or not
suicide is a completely
appropriate response
to invasion

maybe the medication will stop me feeling
how I should
maybe the medication
is just muffling our ancestors?

O! Angaanga

I spent our separation inside of
a hollow heart (mine)
trying to beat it back
to shape
taking a mallet to its clay walls
my head ringing with
the question
can I fold the world into something
I want to live in?

I missed you
I guess is
what I mean.

O! Angaanga

I swam for the first time in the Waikato
the other day
stripped to just my underwear
in the warm awa
Tamanuiteraa turned into
an orange smear on the clouds

what part of me is clean here
while the rest rots?

O! Angaanga

Mary Anning allegedly
the woman who sold
seashells on the seashore
took the oldest and deadest
things and pulled them from the cliffs of
Dorset to tell a whole new story
about the earth’s ancient past
so not shells exactly (poetry always takes
some liberties)
and skulls

in the final shot of Ammonite
a film that is loosely (loosely) based
on her life
she stands on one side
of her discovery
while her gay lover
stands on the other

offering her a life that some thought impossible

O! Angaanga

I ask you about Hinemoana
and what it was like to live in her sea
and you just smile slightly
something moving at the edge
of your vision
that I can’t see
and sign something like
well, there is a reason
I’m not there anymore

O! Angaanga

I think I’m getting sick from
my own river
which would make sense
cos the council overseas a sewage system
that has the habit of overflowing
how much human shit into this river in
the last ten years?
let alone all the runoff that comes
from farms exploited by Fonterra

or is it claiming an awa
my ancestor already turned their back on?
I can’t imagine
doing that
but maybe I do that all the time
look at a mountain and say
I don’t even know you

without even knowing what I’ve done

but when I swim in the Waikato
my body becomes
something I can love
dissolving into
the paru water

O! Angaanga

how long can you hold your breath?

according to Facebook
I came out as trans 7 years ago
I sometimes wake up and remember
the boy I was still curled up
inside my stomach
like some dead meat I just can’t digest
that fluttering fear leaving
my house in a dress
my lungs shrivelled to the size of
what-ifs in my mind
but still they knew what to do
when I took my first breath in 23 years

O! Angaanga

I watch as one particularly clingy katipoo
makes its way out from behind your ear
and crawls over your still face
to rest in the centre of your forehead
like it’s finding warmth in some third eye
you have hidden their under the skin
it didn’t want the driftwood beach
the spider had grown attached
so it begins to weave you a veil

whether or not you should
you trust it not to bite
as it turns its energy into something
that catches the light

O! Angaanga

I remember in the early months
you bringing up binders
you would wear as a teen
and the others thinking you
were straight
I didn’t even think
you were cis
at the time

in your tino jacket
scuffed to fuck jeans
making some joke about LAND BACK

I thought then
that I would hope
to get to know you more
than just that taniwha who added me
on Facebook

O! Angaanga

I’m thinking about the bubbles flattening
to the surface of the tube
and our meme of Papa and Rangi
standing underneath a storm
of inside jokes and the knowledge that
if I did myself in
right here
and right now
you would just travel back in time
to make sure I had something else
to hold onto
with an arm outstretched
you would climb into Rarohenga and one-outs
everyone who would try and stop you pulling me back to life
or we could just stay in there together
and grow savage and old
collaged from a million different sources

oh to age as a waa is luxury
as a source of power
lets us grow fucking monstrous
fill the world with a kind of darkness
that chews the heads off men
or rewind to live
inside a single frame:

O! Angaanga

the pohutukawa blows up red
like it’s embarrassed
by all of the sentiment
our waka landed near one
bent into its own weight

we really go back
way back
to the Sunshine takeaways
me on the Friday
and you on the Saturday

I remember having a phase
where I would strip the batter
from the fish and eat both

O! Angaanga

instead of different days
what if we went on the same one
and from then on
were never separated
even when things got real hard or real bad
you staring into the wall
and me bringing you back to the present
with a hey or a coffee
or a little meme I found
about being bisexual and depressed
oh aren’t we all
or like way too many poems
I read you down the line

O! Angaanga

imagine a world that wasn’t defined by capital
built on invasion and exploitation
I don’t know if I’m even capable of it
but I know
it’s not because of worker alienation that
I like shiny things

when I was a toddler my nan would get me to help
make mobiles to hang out on the porch
just driftwood with shiny Cats Eyes
(they were always my favourite)
watching from irregular stations on
glossy nylon

the plink they would make
a familiar rattle
like some other neighbourhood kid
was playing with toys
out there in the wind
lip to bottle hoping to get a song out of it

where by the right angle
capitalism could
just be blown away

O! Angaanga

how dramatic is this shit?!
if I was Byron or Shelley or Hopkins
committing my love to chains
in words
to clothing with many ruffles
saying your name over
and over again
until the calcium crumbles
or the moana passes her horizon
over our brows

O! Angaanga

you grow weary of the land and its politics
and instead of waiting the twenty or so years it will take
you have decided to give Hinemoana
another visit

we make angels in the sea lettuce
letting the tide move us gently in the foam
the impressions of our arms swinging
ephemeral at each wave
I make a joke about being wed to the ocean

you say in a voice like skipping stones
it was the beaches you always liked the most

cos on the taatahi there is always the option to run away
there is always a choice and if you change your mind
it just doesn’t mind all that much
the beach is used to things coming and going

O! Angaanga

no matter how much
I think I should be used to this
I’m not

over the course of the day
I shuffle back up the beach
while you remain below
as the sun dips
you begin to float
the great big sea pulling you back to her

I don’t remember what the last things I say to you are
probably something like
I’m getting cold
my stomach is sore
I don’t know if that means
I’m hungry or full

you just nod and smile
and sign: same
e rua e rua

seaweed still stuck between your teeth
you turn your eyes to the horizon
and slowly but surely
the sea
she takes you back

O! Angaanga

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