Mary Paul (2008)

[Photograph: NZ Herald]

Poem for Hone

Your hikoi from te wai o pounamu
Was not planned

Your descent into Papatuanuku not counted on
But you must’ve known they would make their own decisions

You’ve written of it often enough and you know that
‘Cremation is not the Maori way’

Sometime about 1am on the night before the afternoon we got there
Moana your granddaughter gave you a piece of her mind

I don’t know exactly the words she said but it was tough

Coming back up here to this old place
Makes you available for comment

Coming back to this marae, not your own but your people are here
Brings your whanau back too

They are humble but resolute, shattered still by your personal land march away from them in 1965

The tangi is for the man not only the poet
Your son mihis to his mother
‘You may have been a poet but she is the poetry of love’

The next day when by chance I meet her and Rewi in the Kiwaka café
She asks why people think being addicted to alcohol is so amusing
We smile

Later the idea of self-medication surfaces
And I remember a rambling conversation with my friend Peter on this New Years Eve
The thing that is most us is the part we have no control over

Your psychiatrist said you had a fetish –
wanting always the earthiness of our succulent woman bodies

You knew you longed for your mother
Though you issued that Kaka Point challenge

See if I care – scatter me here
Singing cockles and mussels alive, alive, oh

We climb the hill as the sun breaks out from its grey veil
And you are lowered beside her – someone regrets it’s not beside your sister

From your new possie you look North over a valley and hillside of bright bush
Grown up from ti tree since Jean went there with your sister 30 years ago

Hinemoa shelters us from the heat under her green umbrella
and we speak of everyone leaving and of how your fame didn’t spread here

Some things have changed since 1945 1965 1975 but not so much

But no-one should feel ashamed

Likewise for my mother who used to joke of ends and ashes with you
And my sister
They both lie in the clinging earth

At Akaroa
At Makara

We, like your family, are not as fine as them
But they are you, we are them

This was bound to be whatever we did,
but in taking you, carrying you, holding you,
embracing each other, it comes to be seen to be

Kia ora e Hone

© Mary Paul
(26th February, 2008)

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