Guttural Language

Image: Irihipeti Waretini

Image: Irihipeti Waretini

My Reo doesn’t ask for much

Just the sweetest tip off a rounded tongue

It implies, that the lilts

In my tone should be a little more jovial

Like an old man

Who’s weight in years

Bears fully on his mutter.

It helps to have the gutter of my sound

Resonate around the locked

Chambers of my memory mind,

Where I seek to find

That slowly rhythmed song that

Once lured my ancestor along

The sheath of furthest blue sea.

What would I see if my Reo

Could unwind the barbed wire

Entwining my pākehā mind

And take it all, not just

Half of the waffles that time

Has held my whakapapa memories in.

To speak in an old tongue,

Without the delicacy of ones

Young half-cocked gun and

A barrel that’s wear is faded

By years of bullet dodging –

Is to liberate the age of

The dawn soldiers

Brave confusion at the hearth of

The wise master’s worth

As he lowers his soul pay

The old fools toll.

For your youth without

Our hurt is a lesson not

Learnt and a tongue in the

Gutter cannot possibly utter

The winds of its home and

The stars of its tomb to

Release the great beast who

Finds us - the taniwha

Trapped in an idea that’s so

Very, very far away.

The haunting

Survives its last, breath…

My tongue pauses to shudder.

The course of its searching has

Come to an end.

And with it released

Is the power unleashed

Of Papatūānuku’s great strife -

That we small humans might

Somehow fuck it all up

If we don’t suck it up

And refuse the great curse

That starts with a verse

In a motherless tongue

By a king and his gun -




But in the hearts of the brave

And the stirring of the grave

A connection of life

Unites the divide

We’re alive. And we speak

Down the gutter of the street

Streams our spinning of deceit

And it lands at our feet –

But, does my voice raise

The shattered bones of trees,

Or will they not hear me

In my languaged other tongue?

Will they finally abandon me,

When they see the façade

Fall wistfully by my side

As I reach

For yet another secret

Another tomb to raid

Who am I to stand?

To call and raise the dead?

I am the living,

The product.

The curse.

So I stand with feet firm

And Hine-nui-te-Pō’s wink

On the barrel of my own gun

While the madman clings to his

Last relevant cause

“Defamation!” he cries to the bulletin future.

The frightened herald scoops

His bedraggled carcass

From its irrelevant heap

I pause a guilty smirk,

For complete and utter anarchy.

The old guard is finally dying.

And we.

We other tounges.

We silenced minds.

We haunted children.  

We wandering home.

We, are the liberation.


Rangimarie Sophie Jolley (Waikato-Tainui) is a mum, sister, daughter, friend and content developer at Huia Publishers. She is inspired by the reality of being a Māori woman and it is through the medium of writing she is able to make sense of her own musings.

“Some days, every thought feels like some part of a greater piece, a greater narrative. But putting a pen in my hand gives me permission to let that narrative live in the now and be all types of ugly and real and exquisite. That’s why I write, because I, as a woman, and as a Māori specifically, am all of those things.”