Saturday, May 14, 2011

Lament - Hone Tuwhare

- Hone Tuwhare

In that strident summer of battle
when cannon grape and ball
tore down the pointed walls
and women snarled as men
and blood boiled in the eyes:
in the proud winter of defeat
he stood unweary
and a god among me.

He it was whom death looked hotly on
whilst I in adoration
brought timid fuel to his fire:
of all things manly he partook

yet did plummet down like a bird
engulfing him as he headlong
rushed towards the night:
the long night
where no dawn wakes to pale
the quaking stars: farewell

Farewell companion of laughter and light
who warmed the nights with the
croaking chants of olden times: hear
me now sing poorly sing harshly...

At dawn's light I looked for you
at the land's end where two oceans froth*
but you had gone without leaving a sign
or a whispered message to the gnarled
tree's feet or the grass or the inscrutable
rock face. Even the innocent day-dreaming
moon could not explain the wind's wry mirth

To you it seems I am nothing -
a nobody and of little worth
whom the disdainful years
neither praise nor decry
but shall abandon to fat
and the vast delight of worms: farewell

Farewell farewell
Let the heavens mumble and stutter
Let them acknowledge your leaving us
Mine is the lone gull's cry in the night
Let my grief hide the moon's face
Let alien gods salute thee
with flashing knives cut open
the dark belly of the sky.

I feel rain spit in my face

I bear no malice, let none stain my valedictions
For I am at one with the wind
the clouds' heave and the slapping rain
the tattered sky and the wild solitude
of the sea and the streaming earth
which I kneel to kiss.

* Referring to Cape Reinga where Maori believe is the place where spirits leave this world on their journey to the next.

O'Sullivan, V. (Ed.). (1979). An anthology of twentieth century New Zealand poetry. Wellington: Oxford University Press.

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