They Said to Stick to a Routine, So We Did by Erik Kennedy
Like our ancestors,
we’re woken by the sounds of
we tell time by the sun
(the midmorning evaporation of the dew
betokens a shorter supermarket queue),
we work in a
before-work-was-invented sort of way
(like distracted bureaucrats in caves),
we love out of necessity
(for the sake of the structure,
like a hammer loves a nail),
we fear on a short timescale
(not ‘What are we becoming?’
but ‘What is happening to us?’),
and we go to sleep to dream beyond
our radius of trust.
Unscythed by John Gallas
By Paparahi Flat , just past the droving bridge,
a vasty field of uncut corn rattles, torn,
sere and straggle-flapping, up to Bonners Ridge.
It’s Winter now. I don’t know why, in ragged rot,
this tall and stalky race were left uncropped, bereft
of use or profit, bluntly clattering, forgot
and draggled-pale, their shreddy leaves like flags,
their cracked confusion like a beaten, huddled troop,
abandoned, standing still, in August’s rimey rags.
Their neighbour-whispers, nods and anxious wags betray,
it seems to me, some shabby incredulity
at some long luck, some higher husbandry that stays
their felling and their muddy end, some shrunk surprise
that they are left alone. I watch them gasp and click.
Their green-time gone, their salad-days long passed, they rise,
a little blankly, yes, a little like a crowd
achatter when the show is done and all the darkling
auditorium of earth an empty shroud
of wind and cold, but standing still. Perhaps this way
of dying, atom-slow, defying expectation
and the time, this easeful progress downwards, may,
with distant busyness, and blindness in the dark,
be mine. I leave the gate and cross the mudded bridge.
Above the track two slapping kahu wheel and cark.
I follow them to Brackall, past the flooded farm,
across the ice at Denham’s Dip to Birthday Creek,
and then the rimu shelter, and its sudden calm.
Love in the time of COVID by Stephen Chan
I loved you, and owe you
so drew the stars of earth
into a clenched fist
as if grasping sand
and watched brightness seep out.
Not I who will draw my will
against the sky
but I it is who watch
Not I who fresco
the stars and sand
nor I who make a stand
but masked and
watch your breath slowly seep
and slowly weep
against the sky.
I loved you, and owe you.
I watch the stars
and count the sand
that seeps out from my hand
and stains the floor
on which I stand
and hear your farewell gasp
and look up at the sky.
Not I who will draw my will
against the stars.
Not I who imagine where you are.
But love and loss
and loss grows like a scar.
Greeting my Taniwha by Jessica Thompson Carr
Unable to visit the womb of te moana, I tumble into the belly of the bathtub, unsteady, shrunken to the size of a cat’s eye, or a lunella smaragda, chiselled from her pāua bed. In shallow water Poi Āwhiowhio rises with the steam, shades the ceiling in a thick mist, miraka, butter miraka, in between my teeth and my toes. Whose knees are these? Whose baby hairs and pocket of belly fat? I bleed with maramataka on my wrists, countless koru unwind from the centre of my spine, outward push. It has been quiet lately. The birds are abundant and the weather is unusually warm, it is time to meet myself. In water I may. In water I drape my heavy, rippling thighs across my sandpaper knees, my abdomen presses against my hip, my arms braid around my neck, my hair tangles into my hair, and I whisper the exact same words from my lips to my ear to my lips to my ear. A handmade message of intimate care.
Sticky threads grow from out my belly button, become a drag to move with. Sinking into silence, I finally feel the worm-like embrace binding my ankles to the floor, my gut wakes me up in the early hours and I am reduced to a growling carnivore, poisoned by what feels like years of suppression. I call a doctor and they want to cut me open. I call my tīpuna and they guide me through the procedure. “Grip the wires in two hands and pull, pull, pull. There is a matau lodged in your body, and it is time to see what it caught.” A poem wriggles out from a celestial hole and falls onto my lap, stamps poutama onto my skin, and my blood cleanses whatever paihana remained. The dam is broken, I stare at this wet result that once swam inside of me and weep and laugh. Mihimihi. I will be grateful till my eyes finally close.
You sit up, a 25-year-old child, dawning. We were a fine, barely cooked egg whose skin had at last been pierced. Whose yolk threatens to cover the plate entirely. The clock on the wall blanches and we are left with no pace, no measurement of joy, no counting down of mamae. Just ourselves just our bodies just our organs, just the thunder and lightning inside our skulls and peeling lips pressed against each other, and I am in love. I am in abundance with my body and my wairua and my other. I reach for the bladed back beside me, kiss the nape, count the moles, trace the pillow creases. We will not be here one day. We will cease to be. Being plagues the thought process, interrupts a good moe. Breathe. The first breath the last breath – our noses will never separate – I participate in the giant hongi which swells across the land
A – ro – ha
A – ro – ha
Hā – hā – hā – hā
Listen to your protective instincts.
Listen to your origin story.
Jessica Thompson Carr is an artist born and bred in Ōtepoti, New Zealand. She achieved her degree in English and Art History in 2017, and is halfway through her Masters coursework, but postponed this to accept an internship with Toi Māori in Ōtautahi at the Court Theatre. Jessica is Ngāpuhi and Ngati Ruanui, and explores and represents her Māori heritage through poetry, fiction, drawing, photography and painting. She defines herself as a Māori Mermaid, a magical being of two worlds. Contact Māori Mermaid via her instagram @maori_mermaid or here: https://maori-mermaid.myshopify.com/
Stephen Chan, OBE PhD, is involved with international academia from his Chair of World Politics at SOAS University of London. He is also involved as an influential diplomatic actor in many of the world’s difficulties – the Zimbabwean meltdown and repression, Qatar’s breaking the Saudi blockade are two recent examples. He was Konrad Adenauer Professor of Academic Excellence at Bir Zeit, Palestine’s most prestigious university, and George Soros Professor of Public Policy at the Central European University before it was forced to leave Budapest. His website is here.
John Gallas is a New Zealand poet living in Markfield, England. He has 24 books published by Carcanet, Five Leaves, Agraphia, Indigo Dreams, Cold Hub (NZ) and others. Forthcoming 2021 is The Extasie (Carcanet), a translation of Petrus Borel’s Rhapsodies (Carcanet), Angleland (New Walk Editions) and Wasted (Cerasus). Endless tramping and biking are the mulling-time for, or freeing-time from, writing. More here.
Erik Kennedy is the author of There’s No Place Like the Internet in Springtime (Victoria University Press, 2018), and he is co-editing a book of climate change poetry from Aotearoa New Zealand and the Pacific forthcoming from Auckland University Press in 2021. His poems and criticism have recently been published in places like FENCE, Landfall, The Moth, Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, and the TLS. Originally from New Jersey, he lives in Christchurch, New Zealand. More here.