Whati


He says:
“But you’re an American”
and I can taste the copper again,
the slow knife of shame trickling down my throat,
while my ancestors
look on,
wonder
how I have let this happen again,
another war I’ve left the window open for,
his tongue a mere
aiming hard at the pā of my body

2014
I have returned home
after eight years away
and I am so green,
20 and only just
braiding Aotearoa into the everyday of my mouth,
still teething
still swaddled
still looking desperately for more people like me

But there is NO ONE like me
he reminds me
is committed to this
more than anything else,
ensuring that I do not walk around
claiming Hinerupe
Porourangi
Te Aotāihi
cutting me off at the fumbled macrons
the pepeha,
watches as Paikea reaches for me
and pushes my head further beneath the waves
where they won’t hear me

No one tells you about the men you will meet
when you go back,
self-appointed ferrymen demanding payment
because we are only ghosts to them,
husks of actual Māori
the only crime being that you were brought up by the city
or thousands of miles away from this one,
but that is more than enough
you should have known better
before bringing yourself into this world,
moving through it like you belong
without the proper tikanga
kawa
men to guide you through light
because you would know nothing of it,
half-blood
woman
plastic
American

It is imperative that you know that last one
you must never forget that last one
repeat it like verses, watch it stigmata
show everyone that you know your place as outsider
the rotten seed that Rangiātea pushed up and spat out,
it does not matter how long you have traveled
your place is at the edge
your home
is not here

If he says he is Māui,
what right do I have
to deprive him of my jaw?
Dismember myself for the betterment
of our people,
cause I have only just arrived
have only ever
just arrived
cannot think of getting
too comfortable

Do not ever believe
you will one day be comfortable


Featured photo by Sam Williams on Unsplash.


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