Poetry Shelf Monday poem: Ruby Solly’s ‘Pōria’

 

Pōria

 

A Judas bird

is the first bird you trap.

Not for its meat,

or feathers,

but for its song.

 

The Judas bird

has its foot folded by its captor.

pushed gently through the pōria;

a ring that it can put on

but not take off.

This is it kare,

you are wearing this pounamu

for life.

 

The Judas bird

cannot help but sing.

Sings for her supper,

sings for her sleep,

sings for her sisters,

sings for you,

sings for me.

 

The Judas bird

sees its sisters fly closer

and closer,

as they fly from the mind’s eye into her vision.

The singing growing more frantic,

higher and lower,

bigger and quicker.

Then the pull of the snare, the thud of the rock.

The tiny sound of air passing through vocal chords

not meaning to sound

but doing so against their best efforts.

An accordion pushed closed with none of its keys down.

We call it a last breath, but really it should be called

a last exhale.

 

The Judas bird watches

its sisters be eaten

and she tries not to sing.

Every bird sound is singing,

a scream is singing, a warning is singing.

She holds it in, the notes rising to her throat like a vapour.

Her mouth full of pitches,

that can’t help but spill from the corners of her beak.

 

The Judas bird wishes

the dawn would not break.

But every morning she finds herself singing.

Small arrows of notes pierce the air

as she releases more and more from her quiver.

Even a cry is song.

 

The Judas bird

sings true and long.

But she has learnt to lessen herself,

to bow to not just the loftiest mountain,

but the smallest grain of sand,

to the dirt under the fingernails

of those who tether her.

She is teaching herself

to song without resonation.

With no harmonics,

no above or below.

Like dropping a stone into a pond

and having it sink with no ripples.

No evidence of its movements

to tell the land

that it is gone.

 

Ruby Solly

 

Ruby Solly is a Kai Tahu musician, taonga puoro practitioner, music therapist and writer living in Wellington. She has played with artists such as Yo-Yo Ma, Whirimako Black, Trinity Roots, and The New Zealand String Quartet as both a cellist, and a player of traditional Māori instruments (ngā taonga puoro). She has also worked as a session musician and recording artist with groups such as So Laid Back Country China, Jhan Lindsay, Strowlini Orchestra, and many other artists around Wellington. In 2019 she completed a Masters thesis in the therapeutic potential of taonga puoro in mental health based music therapy, while working in schools, hospitals, prisons and with private clients from iwi around the motu. She also has experience as a composer with pieces commissioned by the New Zealand School of Music in association with SOUNZ, as well as in film work in association with Someday Stories, and the Goethe Institute with Wellington Film Society.

Ruby is also a published poet and has been published in journals associated with many of New Zealand’s universities such as LandfallSportTurbine, and Mayhem. She has also exhibited poetry in Antarctica, America and New Zealand, and was a runner up for the 2019 Caselberg Trust International Poetry Prize. Additionally, Ruby is a script writer and has found success with her film Super Special which shares knowledge about Māori views of menstruation through narrative. The film aired on Māori TV, and will also air at the LA Women Film Fest.

In 2020, Ruby released her debut album Pōneke and in early 2021 her first book Toku Papa is being released by Victoria University Press.

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