riariaki: uplift

Image Credit: Arihia Latham

Image Credit: Arihia Latham

The crash of living things 

There are logs piled like  

Sponge rolls 

In the wharekai 

Strangely foreign 

They do not remind me  

Of a forest 

More like severed fingers 

Of a thief 

 

Did those fingers press in prayer 

Shakespeare’s Antony 

Begging pardon 

From the earth 

A meek apology  

Against such butchers 

 

I think of what the whenua must look like 

Her skin, as if hot waxed  

Is rashed, lumpy and infected 

Stumps of her hair in patches 

As if the clinician was blind 

Her wounds weep 

For this whāngai forest 

Not even her own children 

But borrowed species 

On borrowed time 

 

The chainsaws arrive 

A chorus of aggression 

Like social workers coming to uplift in the night 

The crash of living things 

Becoming logs 

Of families 

Becoming statistics 

Where is the Rata bound to the Rimu? 

The ferns, soft slippers at their feet 

Epiphytes daring to droop from the canopy 

Nanny’s pounamu earrings. 

 

Did they ask her 

About the baby 

Did they ask her or 

Press their fingers in prayer and 

Send a meek apology 

Pardoning the butchers. 

 

 Name her after me

 I imagine you in a coma 

Waking after most of the moon’s refrain,  

And he is gone. 

Feeling into your memory must have been like unwrapping a parcel.  

Tugging at the twine. 

Your gut knew something your mind could not find. 

Locating the tape, scratching at it till peeled off in unsatisfying strips.  

Glimpses of going to a wedding, of happiness.  

Where is he? 

Brown paper first  

Is his whānau hiding him- they didn’t want him to marry a Pākehā. 

Bubble wrap next. Why does everything you had feel like a dream?  

You pause for breath. 

Nanny runs you a bath. 

She tells you it’ll be alright. 

The water laps over new purple etched scars. 

She tells you it was head on. 

A drunk driver.  

Your hands roll over your belly 

It was to house his beautiful babies 

It was to stretch with different scars than these. 

I will always look after you says Nanny. 

Can she see in the future. 

When she is a whisper in the wind. 

Can she name your future children 

Without her own scorning you? 

The parcel is wrapped in coloured paper, 

The future 

The past 

The tikanga of missing a tangi 

Due to unconsciousness 

And then grieving this conscious  

Brain into living. 

Name her after me e hine. 

She whispered as the hill rose  

Before your puku.  

Years had passed 

Only some memories  

Washed in with the tide 

And she left with many of them 

In her soft hands 

Her prompts for you so  

You could start a new life 

But.. e hine 

Face the past while stepping into the future.  

Name her after me.  

 

Little Potato 
 
Te whiti asked on his return
Who these little potatoes were
Knowing they were the children of that day
They were his and theirs
And nothing peaceful  
Was in their making 
 
The Whaea from Parihaka
She’s from my children’s marae
Says our whakapapa
Is woven like a kete kaimoana
Strong but loose
Everlasting, she says as she holds my back to karanga  
 
My tupuna  
Sang outside the caves at Ōtākou, to offer solace 
Smuggled food to the chained yet still peaceful prisoners 
Buried their dead
I te tikanga tūturu
 
The Toroa swooped  
Carving the rugged coastline  
With their wingspan of hope 
The feathers linking our people 
Loose but strong 
Pinned to all that came after 
Even the little potatoes. 

  

New colonies 

 

You traverse 

The ulna's coat- 

A tight leather number. 

The valley of brachialis is 

Deforested, creased like 

Beet leaves. 

You brush lightly- 

An epidermal erosion 

Melanin scatters 

Metamorphic rocks 

Dapple the 

Honeyed hue in 

Bloodlines of the sun 

Bronzing the arc  

Of the humerus 

You note a 

Colony has begun. 

   

 Cellular division 
 
 
It started with 
All your tūpuna 
Lined up on the paepae 
Your chromosomal karyotype 
Stable as your maunga 
Coursing as fluidly as your awa. 
They stood and leaned in 
For the hongi with all of my 
Hapū. 
They lassoed time, 
Crossing centuries as  
Together they began  
This great divide 
Dividing cells until division  
Became cohesive 
Recognisable to us all 
As its own unified beginning.  

Follow Arihia on Instagram @writtenbyarihia


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