Poem — Nicola Slee

The Maori Christa 

Maybe I’ve seen her in Auckland, late at night
in some bar on the Karangahape Road, a little drunk,
her eyes all on fire, singing the songs of her people
to a guitar’s thick strum.

Or up at Cape Reinga a way off
crouching down under the tree where the spirits depart.
I think she was writing with her finger in the sand,
something impossible to decipher.

On the lawn at Waitangi in front of the Governor’s house
I could swear she was listening intently
to the debates of the elders arguing.
She walked away as the dawn light made long shadows of the trees.

I’ve seen her dancing the poi,
swishing the snow white balls into the air
in rhythm with her swaying body.
We looked on, applauding the performance laid on for the tourists.

In shops selling greenstone and paua
In the hotels and cafes of Rotorua
In Te Papa and down long rutted roads in the outskirts of Taupo
leading to dusty shacks

I’ve followed her, but never quite caught her.
In the Church of St Faith’s I thought I caught her reflection
in a window but it was only my wishful fancy.

I glimpsed an old woman slouched in a caravan
pitched in front of a steaming pool in the Maori village
but she only stared back at me sullenly.

It’s not that I want to talk to her, exactly,
since I could only stammer ‘Kia ora’ and quickly
blunder into silence.

I’d just like to stand for a while in her presence,
ask her to bless me with her mana,
listen to the sound of her voice
whether consoling or chastising me.

 

Nicola Slee