WHEREOF WE CANNOT SPEAK



The Mainland cannot quite bring itself
to call them the “New Zealand Wars”.
Battening rich off the sheep’s back
and a yellow river of gold,
we were the still centre of our world
and that was a Pig Island matter, a kind
of strange away rugby match we resented
our money being spent on. The canny
Scot preferred to marry than war,
clan to tribe, hybridisation, and many
tussock-haired, Tekapo-eyed Kāi Tahu
later, the redoubt faces inward rather than north,
turning back on browner-than-thou
insults against their whakapapa.
We’d heard of Völkner crucified, we knew
Titokowaru's warriors lay in paupers’ graves
in Dunedin (Pakakohe, Ngāti Ruanui,
their shackles rusting ankle-deep in sea water
in the barred caves of Anderson’s Bay)
Tohu and Te Whiti dragged around Christchurch
to be impressed into submission, marvelling
at so many kākahu-worth of birds in the Museum,
the Victorian microcosm spread out far below
the Cathedral’s lookout (two brown Christs
tempted on high by a pale Adversary).
The Wairau Affray mentioned in passing,
Te Maihāroa, but nothing of Waitaha. The rest
is cave drawings and Moa bones (the Scotsman
closes his eyes, touches his Bible, thinking of
Fuadach nan Gàidheal, but remains silent.

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