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No. 59 (June 1967)
– 6 –

The Coming

The Man
His wife
At the prow
Of mighty Tainui
Agony drew me to my feet
To fall again
And round me
Odd black shapes
Bent in unison
And from their lips
The death-wail
I bite my lips
To force the cry back
Why should I
keen with these?
I know not
Yet death is here
The babe is dead
How cold to hold
How small
He does not weep
He lies
On my heart
He has left me
I would
But I cannot
Cold wind surged round me
Salt spray slashed my face
And I knew I had not eaten for days
Marama—white and aloof
She and Moana laughed
At we who toiled
To cross that heaving breast
Hau drove us on
Pitying us —
Yet we wanted
Not pity —
But food.
I am here
In this world
Haunt me not
The eyes
A sob — or a sigh
A new land
Of cloud
And my eyes
And my arms
In gratitude
And in anguish
He is so small
My son
For a new world
My Soul (To the oars)
Free (Pull)
The keening
The despair
The cold
I (Tahi)
We (Rua)
Am (Toro)
Are (Wha)
Here. (Hei)

Dinah Moengarangi Rawiri

From her elders, the writer heard the story of the coming of Tainui, of the death and the casting into the sea of the captain's son, as a sacrifice to the ocean-goddess, Moana, for bringing the canoe to a safe haven. There has always been doubt as to whether the child was alive or dead when he was cast into the sea. His sacrifice drove his mother mad.

The poem is the mother's, and the bracketed words are part of the chorus from the ghosts of the past. Though she thinks she is free, yet they haunt her, and their triumphant chorus calls in her ear to the very last.