new zealand electronic poetry centre


Kendrick Smithyman

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Travellers wheeling down from the Forest
into Waimamaku’s valley floor may
overtake him. Headlights catch only
a moment some elderly Maori thoughtfully jogging
on a no account pony.
                                   He is least
expected as darkness sets in
along that shortcut between Waiotemarama and Pakanae
which, however midday’s most metallic, is
likely overshadowed.
                                 Around Omanaia and Oue
foreseeably he is outgoing / homecoming
under loom of the churchyard and past the marae
tending towards his riverbank house site.
Usually alone, occasionally in company
he passes Waima; even about midnight he/they may have
ahead on the flat which spreads to the harbour.
Whatever his business – perhaps at Whirinaki –
he isn’t bound to roads, he will cut across
country. His pony takes to water like a duck
by moonlight or in dark of the moon
and never seems to tire, would not jib if asked to press
east as far as Te Iringa or Tautoro
in what was called ‘the country of Blackout’
where, thirty years ago, the old man’s mana was
still strong. Should we be
                                        surprised if that isn’t
the case yet, if he has lately been noticed
around Otaua or in the Mangakahia
as though he meant to fetch up at Pakotai?

As though:
that he is dead a hundred and more years is
not relevant. Of course there are people who doubt or deny
some who do not.

Atua Wera. AUP 1997, p.260.

Note to NIGHT RIDING: see G. Blake Palmer, "Tohungaism and Makutu".
Journal of Polynesian Society 63, 1954, pp. 147-63.



Last updated 11 May 2001