Poem — Jan Hutchison

Languages
                  for Aniwaniwa, aged 16 months

When I come to this place past
the yellow irises and red harakeke

flowers, the current of two languages
pulls me through your gate.

Kia ora! Kei te pehea koe? my daughter
asks. Hullo! It’s good to see you.

We watch the spring of our phrases
their arch from Maori to English

and back again while Aniwa dips
in two language pools, echoes

conversations   —     moana    ringaringa
    water     song              or scatters braided

sentences, not noticing which ones
are Maori and which are English.

Here’s taku puku! she exclaims in her bath.
Pekepeke! I go up! she calls when she jumps.

But what does Aniwa hear? She hears
the dance of words. She hears her body speak.

Outside, the wide-hipped river stretches
wetly over stones and I think

how I like listening here     the leaping
sounds bright rainbows in my ear.

 

Jan Hutchison

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