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No. 76 (June 1975)
– 26 –

Four Poems

Christmas Wish

This old man carries the kind of bag
my grandfather used to carry.
And he wears the same kind of braces too.
He purchases a pound of cake
rich with Christmas fruits
and watches as the salesgirl weighs it,
then he unclasps his worn leather bag
and opens it wide.
I half expect to see inside
a fluffy kitten,
plump and sticky figs,
or the imported chocolate bars
Grandad used to bring.
Peace offerings, they were,
gifted to cover his whiskey breath.
Nan would welcome him dutifully,
and set his waiting meal before him
but maintain a distant silence
as he produced his gifts
with a proud flourish,
like some tipsy magician
reaching deep into the recesses of his bag.
I loved him then,
I loved his old leather bag
and his own brown leathery skin,
I even loved the forbidden smell
of his rebellious whiskey breath.
And so I watched this stranger man
carefully place his pound of Christmas cake
into his worn and old-fashioned bag.
I dearly hope he has someone
who loves him,
—perhaps a bright-eyed grandchild
to share it with
some Christmas morn.

Toa Rangatira

This is truth, one cannot,
Save for long quiet nights,
Return to time and place
of yesteryear.

Once I tried with eagerness
Of cherished reminiscence.
But I had grown a giant
Who dwarfed the once vast
Marae of before,
And peeling paint,
Weathered wood,
Blind-eyed dusty panes
Wailed not the welcome
Call into the air.

“I am home,” I said
To a whip of playful wind
That trailed my words
And flung them
At the wide-eyed tekoteko.
He gave no sign
Save that carved out
Of defiance.
Nor would he prance forth
To lay at my feet
The fern-leaf symbol.

My Father

And so I meet my father
and look at him across the years.
I smile into his eyes,
but he looks away,
embarrassed.
He is not used to having me close.
Still, we act out convention.
I introduce my children
and he speaks to them
as one unused to children does,
—stiffly, formally, at arm's length.
I feel bad.
I want to say
Dad,

– 27 –

there have been too many years
between us …
I want to reach out
and brush the years away,
I want to say
I love you, Dad.
But we are not alone,
and somehow,
I'm afraid to say it
in a crowd.
I don't really know
if I'd have the courage
to say it anyway,
even if we were alone.
So I say instead
See kids,
what love does to you?
I say, note me,
the object lesson for the day,
—one overgrown fool,
afraid,
of a thing like love.

Mahanga

My child speaks
Yet language lacks
To bridge the ages
Now to Then

Son of tribe,
And craftsman's heir
He learns in a century
Of different men.

He touches age-old
Weathered wood,
Brown fingers tracing
Curve of carver's tool.

And in his dark
And curious eyes
I see my own
disquieted, searching soul.

Pouto

This is a small district 40 miles south of Dargaville. The tribe that lived here before the farmers came was Ngati Whatua, and they are still the main tribe here. Mr T. Pomare and his wife can tell interesting stories of how they used to come over from Helensville for fishing, eeling, and birds.

Old pa sites can be seen around Pouto, in the pa site above the old Pouto school, a skull was found, and the part that interested the finders was that the teeth of the skull were in beautiful condition, with not a hole in them. Our old Maori could give us a few lessons on diet and dental care!

The Pouto marae is used for tangis, and any hui that the locals wish to use it for. The marae is beautiful and is situated so that it overlooks the sea with a mast and anchor of a sunken ship as its focal point.

As the area is sparsely populated, everyone helps with everything they can, and it is an especially close-knit community, so it is little wonder that you find Pakehas as members of the Maori Women's Welfare League, and the vice-president, Mrs L. Gee, is a Pakeha. The president, Mrs E. Nathan, and her secretary, Mrs G. Tana, have a full year ahead of them, starting with the conference in July and other fund-raising efforts during the year.

The Pouto school has a roll of approximately 70 pupils, and Maori is taught to all the older pupils. The Maori teacher, Mrs G. Tana, is also teaching the local Pakehas to speak Maori, and some of the old Maoris come along to learn too.

For Saturday sports the children go by private car, or once a fortnight on the school bus when it is serviced on a Saturday. The pupils who go on to secondary school have to board away from home as the distance is too great for them to travel home each night.

Everything about Pouto is beautiful—the climate, the fishing, and the people. The only fault we can find with the place is the distance we have to travel to shop (and even this is hardly worth mentioning as we have a daily delivery), and of course the fact that our children must board out once they reach secondary school.

a few words on her home area

by…Mrs J. Kawiti