Poetry Shelf: Paula Green’s ‘Waitangi Day’



Waitangi Day


When I was seventeen I took to the road

alone, the Northland sun in my bones and blood

the heat in my head like vertigo

my head spinning, feet on the land that raised me


along with the sturdy kauri the salty ocean

the home-grown vegetables fed on volcanic soil


I sat on the edge of a trail a bush pool mesmerising

and heard a cacophony of voices wailing mourning

knew I should not be there

Ghosts inside me I tell the local Māori on the stone

bench outside the Kerikeri store That place is tapu

he says kindly and I feel the grief rise and fall


We can carry the grief

I carry the grief


I carry the grief that our ancestors stole

whenua te reo kai wellbeing

I carry the grief at the violence and injustice

and I can’t imagine

I can’t imagine the wounds


I am almost old and I accept the hand

that is held out from the marae

I accept the kai that is cooked for me

the stories that are whispered in my ear

the poems that are gifted, the waiata that

are sang, the warm mihi nui offered but I will always


have the wailing Northland voices I heard

at seventeen when I had no idea of how to be

how to listen to the past

how to listen to the present the future

Now I am almost old with feet planted on this

Waitākere land we care for

my kūmara and tomatoes growing

out of story and wound and resilient love


I am holding your hand to my heart

knowing so much more is to be returned

breath to breath song to song and

the ghosts tell me listen listen listen



Paula Green  6 February 2020












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