Kōrerorero / the say-so

By | 1 November 2019

Named

Streets for writers,
Dickens, Emerson, Shakespeare,
High school for a missionary,
Colenso.
A city,
Napier,
for some old white man, because they always are,
or for some battle where my people were slaughtered by yours,
or for some event, with no relevance to the land, upon which an ill-placed flag whips itself frenzied.
Buildings resurrected, upon the reclaimed.
So numerous now, like oil slicking through the ocean, nothing untouched.
Bluff Hill so full, it comically threatens to topple,
into a gentrified, barely recognisable from its wharfie beginnings, Ahuriri.
This layering,
upon places ancient,
Ahuriri, Heretaunga, Mārewa, Maraenui, Onekawa,Pirimai.
Of peoples ancient,
Ngāti Kahungunu.
Of a sea, so dangerous
we knew, don’t get too close
A class system so structured
private boarding schools thrive
while, kohanga reo don’t
Aertex shirts, moleskins, navy jerseys, fob chains – the uniform
Leathered-up Mongrel Mob patches – the response
Napier, created like so many others in New Zealand,
in the image of a mother, oceans away,
unseen and unknown.
and, where you died, and where I won’t.

We may have been born in the same place, Blair
walked the same streets
perhaps, even known the same people?
It’s unlikely, you shared a beer with Dad at the Pro,
or sorted peas, at Watties with Mum.
Did you know about Te Kooti? and what happened to him at the prison?
Did you trace the profile of Te Mata?

Did you drive Devils Elbow, swim in Tukituki, attend Anzac parades in Clive Square? cycle along
Marine Parade? visit the Aquarium? line up for the pictures at the Odeon, scoff cakes at Brown Owl Bakery?

You’d probably already left for Victoria University, when Marineland opened in 1965. Was it by railcar or bus?

In Wellington, were you shocked by the cold, the taste of the water but excited by all that, possibility?

Decades, separate us
your walking through life as a Pākehā man
my walking through life as wahine Māori
Perhaps, we would have stood side-by-side
fists tight, shoulders taut,
legs tight, face taut
ready to write
ready to right
flight ready
fight ready

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