poem by george anderson, photo by kate marie
on the staircase wall is a framed black and
white photograph of your great grandmother
she is wrapped in a hand woven blanket
clutching a long clay pipe with worn hands-
she stares intensely at the photographer,
the traditional moko marked on her chin
before sleep time I read you again your
favourite Maori legend ‘Rata & the Totara Tree’
& as on cue you laugh again-
at the part where Rata returns to the forest
to the giant totara he has chopped down the day before-
only to find it standing tall & whole again
one day you will learn
your blond haired mother from Opotiki
once viewed herself as a pakeha,
as an descendent of an Irish infantryman of the Imperial Army
from the New Zealand Wars-
until one astonishing evening
her Maori Art teacher revealed to her she was his cousin
your kuia bounces up & down in the next room
on a mini trampoline
watching mid-day soaps, weight loss ads, preparing for golf
teasing her daughter that
the All-Blacks will flog Australia
like the totara tree
you return to us like an unexplained gift
we sing on the wide lawn of the wharenui
the words, the sweet cadences of your ancestors

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