Ode to You

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I remember when you were young

so full of tenderness and wonder

a deep chuckle far beyond your years

you knew things that we’d forgotten

but now an enraged beast resides

hacking away beneath the surface

of your beautiful skin

religiously I bargain with gods

grateful when my outstretched hands are slapped away

because it means you are alive

I will not stand by and watch you bleed

you are ageing as you endure this torment

and I must keep my despair

safely tucked away

when you fall I will always pick you up

I refuse to turn my back

or pretend

that the shadowy beast has gone

because I still see glimmers of light inside you

I will not stand by and watch you bleed

when you were young you dreamt of things

much better than this

patiently I wait for you to return

my promise is to speak out

against the cruelty you turn inwards

my place is to remain unflinching

when you clothe yourself in darkness again

because I see the love you hold

deep down

inside

your beautiful skin

 

Note: A reworked version of an older poem. In support of those left behind, after the recent suicide of one of our young people. Iona x

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Weaving

Whenever I gather harakeke (flax) to weave I notice the interconnection of IMG_1023my hands with Papatūānuku and Rangi-nui. I recall the components that nourish the plant, and always leave three rows of growth, to ensure grandparent, parent and child remain intact.

Past, present and future all in one moment, standing together.

Growth and support are important to me, and without being gushy, I need to say I’m extremely grateful for all the writerly support I’ve received over the past eight months.

Without loving support from whānau, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and people I’ve met on social media platforms, I couldn’t have got through being brain injured and regaining my life by degrees since June 2017. Kā mihi nu nui, many thanks to you all.

A whakatauāki (proverb) ‘Ka mua, ka muri’ prompts me to move forward facing the past—and to be informed, mindful, and supported by it. And I know these three things:

  • Papatūānuku has been brutally treated by us humans. So I will remain committed to being an environmentally conscious woman. We have to stop harming Mother Earth now.
  • It’s all too easy to hate on one another, but aroha (love) is infinitely more powerful. So I’m choosing to stand in a place of aroha first.
  • The future of our mokopuna (grandchildren) is uncertain. It is up to us to do something to prepare the soil for them to grow. So I’ll keep writing stories, preparing gardens, take good care of myself, and be there for those who need me.

Wishing you peace, aroha and wellbeing as we engage with 2018.

Iona x

 

thorns

below IMG_1282

she is a crack in the ocean floor

vapours billow forth, surfacing

above

she is a primordial rose

magnificent thorns poised to puncture

outside

she is a stain from the cat-caught-bird

whose enduring feathers survive

inside

her water-blood-molecules-life shelter

a temple of moon-babies and secrets

Kauri

Our ancient Kauri trees are dying. And despite some people’s best efforts to prevent the spread of disease, visitors continue to trample the earth with their dirty boots and make no effort to wipe them before (or after) entering this sacred realm of taonga. IMG_0181

Always leave your shoes at the door. 

I’m blessed to have grown up below the Waitākere Ranges, in West Auckland. Now (forty-something-years-later) a human-spread virus is killing the magnificent Auntie Agatha—a one-thousand-year-old Kauri.

I’m glad my parents were hippies. Looking back I can see that my father was forward thinking in how he replanted the scraped-back-to-clay whenua, by nurturing native seedlings along fence lines, replenishing the soil with compost, and planting fruit trees. Behind our whare the native bush was untouched and we roamed freely amongst it—all the way up into the Waitākere Ranges. My grandparents did similar things with their garden, whatever was grown had an interconnected relationship with one another.

We coped some flack as kids, for our homemade clothes, brown bread sandwiches and my bare feet. Shoes and I have always had an ambivalent relationship. I loved wandering around in the bush, listening to birds, and planting my toes in the earth. Much more interesting than playing with other girls’ Barbie dolls. Nature soothed me back then, much as it does now.

IMG_0182When I read about Auntie Agatha dying, I felt incredibly sad. I remember the last time my son and I went to see her. How we took off our shoes and greeted her—we were very quiet that day, and spoke in whispers I recall. A tree this old and majestic nurtures everything beneath her, including us.

It never ceases to astound me how selfish humans can be in their relationship to Papatūānuku, our Mother Earth. Without her we are nothing, and yet we continue to rape, pillage and colonise, without a second thought. Was it too much to ask the visitors to wipe their goddam feet? No. But it seems that most didn’t bother, taking the avoidant path of, ‘it’s not going to happen in my lifetime, bloody eco-hippie-scaremongers, my boots look fine, ah don’t worry about it, it doesn’t matter’ as they tromped past the boot cleaning stations.

Now it’s too late, and while some people argue about the best way forward, the Waitākere Ranges remain open, exposing these taonga to even more disease. I know that if it were commercially important, there would’ve been restrictions long ago. Commercial versus indigenous. You get my drift I’m sure.

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter to me how much money you have in the bank, if you own your own home, or wear fancy shoes. What really matters is that we can pass on to our mokopuna the sacred experience of standing beneath an ancient Kauri and be sheltered by her.

Ka mua, ka muri (we are the future, the present and the past)

Hui Podcast

It’s the strangest thing hearing myself played back after public speaking. Here’s the podcast link (for anyone who is interested) to my kōrero from the Creative Cities Southern Hui in Ōtepoti Dunedin. I’m No.10 on the list, but the others are well worth a listen too if you have the time.

http://www.accessradio.org/ProgrammePage.aspx?PID=7d7bd8c1-7e05-4ff3-a22a-577ed0238fbb

IMG_1547At the hui I read a few of my pieces, discussed my writing process, healing from a brain injury, my trip to the Edinburgh Book Festival in 2016, and the challenges of writing as Māori, in hybrid forms.

Sadly you won’t be able to see my photo slideshow, but here’s one of them – a Tūī I spied on Rakiura (Stewart Island).

I am very proud to live in a city that embraces creativity and the arts! Kia ora Dunedin City of Literature for inviting me to speak at the hui – I had a wonderful time.