Go to National Library of New Zealand Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa Go to Te Ao Hou homepage
No. 66 (March 1969)
– 20 –

Back From Malaya …

And they waited …
The old ones laughing
And telling of remembered battles
And the activation
Of mock taiaha fights.

And the women and children
Hurrying to and fro
From hangi pit to shed—
And the long trestle tables
Laden with jellies, puddings
Cutlery and plates—

And the parents bursting
With pride
And the sisters giggling
And wondering
‘What Malayan women …?’

And the brothers silent
And pondering …
On the youngest of them all
Having crossed the great ocean
To battle …

And they waited …
Whilst the bright summery day
Grew old …
And died …

And a youth came quietly
From the darkness
With his father behind him
And stood, part revealed
By the lamplight

And he was home …

And the elders spoke to him
Each one wrapt in his own
Remembered glories …

Likening the battles of this
Young one
To the battles of old days
When they had fought …

And the tears
In the young one's eyes, dried
And he stood there
Still in his soldier's garb
Wondering …

Had he really come home
And who were these people
Crowded here
In this space

Who were these strangers
Who cared more for their own memories

Than for he
Who wished now, only to rest …

And the speeches over

he sat …

And he was stranger to me
This cousin of mine
With the tense, thin body
Turning ever,
To twitch
At the shadow looming large
At his back …

– 21 –

His face masked by warm
False grin
And the slope-sided mouth
Tense and tight
Twitching in grimace

That left his mouth
A gaping black hole …

And the furtive backward glance
And the gulping
Of quickly offered beer …

And the quick cat-turn,
As
Brother to brother
The sharp hand on his shoulder …
Battle madness …!
And the tight crouched tenseness
And then
The difficult relaxation…

‘Only my brother!!’—
The relief and warmness—
But, thru' the embrace—
The soldier's eyes,
Still straining in the darkness—
Cold, iced, wary …

And then to meet mine eyes
And then — to glow with
Surprise, pleasure?

Madness …

Come to me
It will be a long furlough mine cousin
And have you forgotten
That we ran fleet-footed
As children
And the world had no fear?

And you have forgotten …

Your eyes are the eyes of a man—
And did you only
Battle upon the fighting fields
In Malaya??

And as you hold me in fond embrace
Am I weeping for the joy of
Your homecoming

Or because I know
That you have grown smaller
And shrunk …

That the man has seen too much
Of the inhumanity of man
To man …

That there is falsity in your embrace
That I am no longer the cousin
But a woman to you …

And I would that I could
Give you …
That which you want of me
But it is not meet …

And I am not affinitous
With the man
As I was with the boy

Your eyes hold the passion of a man,
And mine the sadness of a woman,

And I watch the passion die

And the rueful, cynical, smile
And again I understand
That you fought — not only
On the battlefields

And I wonder that war
Can make a youth
Into that which is less than a man.

And here are your friends, cousins …

To welcome a stranger to their midst …

A stranger …

Who does not know yet …

That he is a stranger …

Dinah M. Rawiri