About the Poem
About the poet
Hone Tuwhare (1922 — 2008) is New Zealand’s pre-eminent Maori poet; his tribal affiliations are...
Today as I step away and out
of myself to look, I wonder
about me and bump: it’s your
Forgive me: but it is not
too late to send a kumara or
book—which seems ordinary
Outside there’s a hell of a
struggle going on between my
cabbage tree and the wind.
The sun has already decided
to hit the sack early: the sky
shakes out a white bull-whip
Well, you may not like
the bullshit and jazz which
sometimes go with the poetry
I write, and if I tell of an
earlier my-time in another place
another country, well hell
I leave you no choice
Another country? Nothing special:
just another way of growing.
Anyway, at fourteen
the contours of the land didn’t
interest me much and I only noticed
it when I climbed the hill
The hill got steeper as the work
There were compensations:
I wondered about girls a lot. Grew
kind of secretive when I discovered
I had a flair for growing body hair:
recall the day the sky fell on
my head when the lining of my
pocket broke letting out a sudden
harvest of clay and glass balls
which chattered and bounced
on the school floor:
Trevor, Doug, Jimmy, I cried,
and with my voice breaking
into top soprano, screamed:
gimme back me fuckin’ marbles
And oh, the hard times
when I used to walk the grey streets
of the city with a face like a
kaka, sardined feet coffined in
shoes too tight for them. Yeah, it’s
hard looking back on the wincing
times. But what a good hell it was
to be vulnerable: cry joy alive
to the whip and zip of blood leaping
in the veins.
Girl, I can’t write a pretty poem
for your thirteenth birthday.
I write only to thank you for the
plate of raw marinaded fish-flesh
which awakened my taste-buds
and to tell you tonight
of the furl of music unfolding
to the wind’s swirl on the cypress
tree next door: imperious rap
of rain on the windows.
‘Sandra’, from Small Holes in the Silence: Collected Works (Godwit, Random House, 2011), © Hone Tuwhare 2011, used by permission of Rob Tuwhare on behalf of the Estate of Hone Estate. Recording from the Aotearoa New Zealand Poetry Sound Archives 2004.
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