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Aroha Harris  

All Together Now: A Digital Bridge for Auckland and Sydney             


How She Knows She is Māori: a checklist

I ask her where she is from.
She answers like I want to know
why her island, beach, valley, hilltop
is the only place in the world
that really matters,
like it really matters.

Someone told her
she doesn’t look

We talk children.
She tells me about her nephew
born on an incoming tide,
high prince of the kōhanga reo
with its higgledy-piggledy
loose family units.

Someone said her name
doesn’t sound

We eat drink.
She frowns at oysters slurped
boisterously from their shells,
jokes she’s not that kind of Māori,
but boy can she put those kinas away,
we both like trim latte two equals.

Someone laughed
she is middle-class

We hear speeches.
She thrusts her political eyes
into the fray,
Māori tongues slice and dice
her Māori heart,
she bleeds in other languages.

Someone swelled
she is clever

Her name is alice, sarah, irene
someone calls her aunty
someone calls her cuz
she is Tūhoe, Te Āti Awa, Ngāi Te Rangi
she is fair, she knows
she is her own


First published in Mauri Ola: Contemporary Polynesian Poems in English, ed. Albert Wendt, Reina Whaitiri and Robert Sullivan (Auckland UP, September 2010)

©Aroha Harris