tea and memories

I’m so grateful for the time someone spent with me this afternoon – so patient – listening to my story – suggesting – clarifying – helping me to write my mihi – and more deeply – to connect with and claim my mihi as my own.

I came home – and stopped in front of this kawakawa bush – I was thinking about it yesterday and I knew the best thing would be to make tea from its leaves and let the past settle while I waited for it to steep.

I sit now with my tongue tingling along with my heart.

torn apart

12.02am was a lesson in humility
who am I
to think the earth
could feel my pain
and make the heavens
weep with me

she is not a reflection of my emotions
she is her own sovereign being
and last night she tore herself apart

there is a fury
she has held in check
grief she has suppressed
pain she has denied

last night
all was unleashed
pent up energy released
her heart broken open
and spread before us

there is a madness in her rage
she rends her clothes
and tears her hair
she breaks her own body
and lays it at our feet
she has become a distorted, twisted thing

my beautiful country
you have torn yourself apart
what are you telling me?

we may be homeless
she is broken
we may be confused
she is broken
we may be distraught
she is broken

it may be her only way
to shake free from us

my beautiful country
you have torn yourself apart
what are you telling me?

she has called on her power
the wild pulse of life
to tear open her own skin
to bleed rivers enough
to flood the land
and lay bare the truth

she is not gentle
she is not kind
she is a wild thing
who tolerates us

she is more Lillith than Eve
she is Papatuanuku grieving still for Rangi
she is Persephone rising after slaughtering Hades
she is Mis raging in the wilderness

she is telling us
she owns her body
she owns her pain
and she can cast us off
in a heartbeat

©Claire Griffin 2016

And then came this… just when I was in the heady space of imagining the significance of a rare astronomical event… On 14 November a 7.8 earthquake hit.

I had to face my sentimental wishful thinking, my need to personify the earth as a beneficent mother. She is not a reflection of my emotions. She is her own sovereign being, and this morning she tore herself apart.

The previous poem was put on hold, and this seemed so much more appropriate.

super moon

the eye of the universe draws nearer
she turns towards us
watching side on
like a great white whale
surfacing, curious, yet wary
she brings a gift to us
her own body, her luminous skin
she has come from the depths of space
to show what it looks like to be whole
she has come to bring light to our dark night
she has come to bring hope
she has come …

Monday is the night
of the perigree full moon
a supermoon

our pain, our cries of disappointment
and anger have been heard
and we have woken the spirits of our world

©Claire Griffin 2016

I was working on this almost three weeks ago, and was planning to post on Monday 14 November, the night of the supermoon.
However, Sunday night, early Monday morning, New Zealand was hit by a major earthquake, and my notions of a benevolent moon seemed naïve and sentimental. I’ve been a bit distracted ever since.
I never really finished this – but it fits with a few pieces that have emerged from the events of the last few weeks.

12 November – revised 1 December 2016

 

tears in the sky

it has rained for three days
rain and fog and mist for two
and yesterday – more rain in a day
than usual for the whole month

the land itself was grieving
for the ones who’ve left us
for voices silenced
for songs unsung

Te Ihorangi and Hinewai
are the gods of rain and mist
male and female together
holding us in their embrace

as mist lay heavy on the hills
cloaks woven of all the tears
we’ve shed these last few days
these last few months

crying with us
until we are ready
to stand and turn our faces
to the sun

©Claire Griffin 2016

In this land, rain is often interpreted as a sign of grief, as if the land itself is crying in recognition of the passing of a great leader. This is an extract from the lament, ‘E pā tō hau’, for Te Wano of the Ngāti Apakura tribe:

E ua e te ua e taheke
Koe i runga rā
Ko au ki raro nei riringi ai
Te ua i aku kamo.

Come then, O rain, pour down
Steadily from above
While I here below pour forth
A deluge from mine eyes.

http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/tawhirimatea-the-weather/page-4

Citation: Basil Keane, ‘Tāwhirimātea – the weather – Rain’,
Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand,
http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/tawhirimatea-the-weather/page-4
(accessed 13 November 2016)
Full story by Basil Keane, published 12 Jun 2006

the cloak of shadows

a cloak is suspended
from a high ceiling
just inside the entrance
of a dimly-lit room

I cross the threshold
this cloak of chains
is dark and hard
and I swear the air turns cold

I read a date – 1860
the past confronts me
the pain is palpable
and I am silenced

shadows move between the links
invisible hands raised
to hold me at a distance
I’m barely breathing

there are voices
in the shadows
I move aside
and they begin to speak

 

© Claire Griffin 2016

image and information: http://www.pataka.org.nz/ngahina-hohaia/

Te Kahu o te Karauna – This is why I won’t stand for the national anthem”
a metal chain korowai (cloak) sculpture by Ngahina Hohaia,
from the exhibition “Tools of Oppression and Liberation”.
This piece refers to the oppression of the peaceful settlement at Parihaka.

 

the visitor : myth, traditions and interpretation

With reference to the poem “the visitor”:

Myth:
In Māori mythology the fantail was responsible for the presence of death in the world. Maui, thinking he could eradicate death by successfully passing through the goddess of death, Hine-nui-te-po, tried to enter the goddess’s sleeping body through the pathway of birth. The fantail, warned by Maui to be quiet, began laughing and woke Hine-nui-te-po, who was so angry that she promptly killed Maui.

Tradition:
In some traditions, the fantail is regarded as “a harbinger of death when seen inside in a house”.
(Kelly Keane. ‘Ngā manu – birds – Birds associated with death’,
Te Ara – the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, updated 8-Sep-15)

Interpretation:
I remember that my own interpretation at the time I experienced this feathered visitor, was less that the presence of this little bird foretold a literal death, but more that it came as a confirmation of the end of a relationship and the changes that were to come. Still, it was a death of sorts.

When emotions were raw, when change was inevitable, this visitor from the natural world somehow seemed to be an acknowledgement, and a reassurance.

Visitors from the wild-world:
This little bird was not the only animal visitor I had during this time – the other was a possum.

I was living in a semi-rural area, near bush, but I had never in five years seen or heard a possum near the house. And then, one night, returning to what was still my home for the time-being, after spending time with friends who had offered me a room in their flat, I parked the car and walking to the gate, there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. It was looking straight at me. I was surprised, but I remember greeting it, asking “What are you doing here?” Of course, there was no answer beyond its silent presence. And I felt that was its purpose – to simply be there with me in that moment.

Days passed and I moved out to live in a flat in the centre of town. I carried on with life, putting on a brave face, and clinging to my misplaced hope that this might be temporary, that there might be a return to the way things were.

One night not that long after, coming home from a night out with friends, I parked the car and there on the lamp-post at eye level was a possum. Again surprised, again confronted. Here in the middle of the city I was face to face with a wild creature. (I even caught myself wondering if it could be the same one). And just as with the fantail, it felt as though my decision was being affirmed, that I had made the right decision, no matter how painful it was.

Each time, I was alone. Each time, I was reminded of my aloneness, but it felt as if I was being reminded that I had the strength to cope. There were so many days and nights when I felt as though my world was collapsing, had in fact collapsed. I felt alone, adrift, abandoned and the pain was palpable. Hearts do break, and there is no relief.

One of the few things that gave me strength was knowing that the wild world had crossed the threshold, had stepped in to my time and space to be present with me. Quite possibly it stopped me going completely off the rails over the following months.

© Claire Griffin 2016