About the Poem
About the poet
Contemporary Maori poetry in English has found its poetically most versatile spokesman in Robert...
On 6 February 1870, the waka Pono sailed down the Thames
in the belly of the steamer Troy. The crew slipped their canoe out
of the tin hull under the cover of a yellow fog. They killed
on the first night - lobbed a bomb into a corner pub.
Other waka joined them as vessels from the South Seas
arrived with their booty. Soon a canoe fleet started marauding
Southend, and the rebels commandeered some vessels.
On they steamed to London. They fired the heavy artillery every day
for months. The blighters even had the cheek to fire at the West End!
The great bells of Big Ben fell down. Westminster caved.
In a trice the capital fell to the Maori who sacked the seat
without mercy. A marquess and baronet were returned to the Bay of Islands
and paraded at the Waitangi Marae. Spoils of war.
But I'm glad to report the Maori returned the Elgin Marbles,
and the Assyrian friezes, retrieved the woven waka sail
first taken by Cook and housed in the Museum of Mankind.
The Maori forged alliances with a quarter of the people of the planet
by emptying the spoils of the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert,
the Ashmolean. Palestine free! Rhodesia free! South Africa free! Kenya free!
India free! Canada free! Ireland free! Australia free! West Indies free! Aotearoa free!
Governor Heke has announced that the colony - England - is sending
shipments of frozen lamb to New Zealand, and potatoes to Ireland, instead of troops.
We expect they will benefit from limited self-government in the long term.
A restoration project is underway to ensure the survival of their language.
‘London Waka’, from Voice Carried My Family (Auckland University Press, 2005), © Robert Sullivan 2005, used by permission of the author and the publishers. Poet’s private recording 2011.