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June 18, 2015

It is winter and the new year
opens its arms before me

The moon is gone
The sun has fled

I am bathed in darkness
A woman with no moon

I wander the land alone
My blood quiescent, stilled

In the darkness my words sink
like stones
Spiral into the deep

The ground is hard
My foot prints leave no trace
I am witnessing the sky’s
rebirthing, in the dark of the moon

His dance with the depleted earth
Her bones pressing
against the curve of the bay
Longing for the sky

I walk as if my passing matters
I walk as a witness
I let my tears fall
spiral down my arms
fall from the ends of my fingers
Anoint the earth
with the salt of the sky

And I think of the words
of my tupuna –

Tukua mai he kapu ngā
oneone ki a au hai tangi

Send me a handful of earth
that I may weep over it

~ by Kiri Piahana-Wong

I hope it’s not trite to pop this poem in here. I really like her poetry. Some of her metaphors spark whole stories in my mind, but I also like how she manages to single out moments in time and make them (meaningful, yes, but mostly just) tangible (‘The three of us’ (p.24), ‘Night Swimming’ (p.46), ‘Tepid baths’ (p.10)  for example).

Much of her poetry in Night Swimming (as she acknowledges in one of the poems at least) is about love and breaking up and reconciliation. Somehow a poem that refers us to new beginnings and to the creation story of Ranginui and Papatūānuku seems to just fit perfectly in the collection. (In some ways, I wonder if this poem reads differently on its own than it does in context of the poetry collection that is Night Swimming?) The image of the spiral is a positive one for me – as are Ranginui’s tears (they connect him with his lover even as the measure his distance)… Perhaps the spiral works as an interpretive device here, too? Piahana-Wong spirals in and out of physical moments and existential thinking; in and out of personal anecdotes and mythic stories. The final words of this poem do just that:

“Send me a handful of earth
that I may weep over it”

Within this single handful of earth and this one individual’s tears, you also find the separation of earth and sky and the entire world that grew out of that story. Lovely.

Also, can I just say? “A woman with no moon” what a cool phrase!

Ref: ‘Matariki’ pp.42-43 Kiri Piahana-Wong (2013) Night Swimming. Anahera Press: Auckland


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