About the Poem
About the poet
Contemporary Maori poetry in English has found its poetically most versatile spokesman in Robert...
I ask you, waka, ark, high altar
above the sea, your next destination?
Tangi, tangi throughout the land,
I am in demand to take souls to Hawaiiki
to satisfy the honour of spirits.
Take me to Hawaiiki.
Make an exception for one who breathes.
I will take you while you sleep.
You will see phosphorescent waves,
do not be frightened. Whale spouts
will hold the balls of your feet.
You will see the first Mount Hikurangi.
Swim in the Healing Spring of Tane
where the moon sleeps.
You will hear the elevated speech
of those who observe the destinies
driving the bodies of the people,
and all the stories buried there
like sacristies. People will float
like birds, fish will glitter, every cave
and waterfall a musical instrument -
a place too good to be true,
a place the navigators were searching for,
the home of their dreams,
only in their dreams.
And when I woke I was in my study typing.
‘Waka 83', from Star Waka (Auckland University Press, 1999), © Robert Sullivan 1999, used by permission of the author and the publishers. Recording from the Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archive 2004.