About the Poem
About the poet
Wittiness and cleverness are hallmarks of Elizabeth Smither’s poems. Whether she is writing...
from Parihaka - Twelve Little Poems
Those who are bent by the wind shall rise again when the wind softens
What could the grass say
of what it has seen?
Flattened, parched, trodden, burned,
surviving all, licking the rain
with its tongue, bending
to the wind and rising again.
Lindsay backs the John Deere ride-on mower
out through the bedroom French doors
and down the slope of Te Hiona
ducking under the four camellia trees, swinging
grass, buttercup, daisy and dandelion incense over
Te Whiti's concrete steps, Te Niho's red
speckled roof, pristine Te Raanui, ghostly Kapui.
In the front room of the house a clock whose make
is Bells and a lush wall hanging of a peacock, swans
and blossoms. Before we leave Marion
removes a dead mouse and throws it into
the field that was a bowling green.
John Ward, Gaoler, Recollects
I escorted them around the Industrial Exhibition
the Botanical Gardens, the cathedral where
the bells chimed out. At night
they saw the gas lamps lit. Ear to a
telephone, ride on a steam train.
Would nothing move them to confess
the might and cleverness of the pakeha?
'So what did you like best?' I asked
Te Whiti. And he replied, 'The river'.
Te Whiti and Tohu
On the last morning of his life
Te Whiti fed corn to his pigeons.
Tohu was buried on top of his coffin
smashed in a dozen pieces.
Tohu had his left hand middle finger
shot away by a bullet. Te Whiti's
right hand middle finger was torn off
by a millstone. They married sisters.
At Tohu's death a canoe-shaped cloud
with a figure lingered for three days.
Te Whiti spoke of ko manawanui: forbearance
the canoe by which we are to be saved.
Raukura: White Feather
A white flame in dark hair
a cloud to the mountain's peak
the colour of undimmed honour.
A European Postscript
'May new inspiration jump into you', a friend writes from London on a postcard of Thomas Hardy's first page of Tess of the D'Urbervilles.
'Good-night, Sir John,' said the parson
in Hardy's tiny crossed-out hand.
Goodnight to Tohu and Te Whiti.
May new inspiration jump into those who follow
their wish for the whole of us to live
peaceably and happy on the land.
'Parihaka - Twelve Little Poems', © Elizabeth Smither 2000, used by permission of the author. Recording from Parihaka: The Art of Passive Resistance (Trust Records, 2000).