slip / knot

if the present is unwrapped like a shucked
oyster let it be my oyster my blank slate
to transform into metaphor out of memory
of this that all the other blank slates that came
before mine and were willed in to be first
kōwhai then puce let it be my past
to untangle my language to unslip

these knots of English to be stripped
from me in the future which I walk into
blind eyes set on the past the whakataukī
coming true always having been true such
that I am walking away from this time this
place with all that could be becoming as it
becomes at once for real this future that

present this landscape that promise this for-
gotten fallibility that forgone masculinity
this is a room filled with other rooms that
is a room with a locking door locked door
this is the end of that no that is the
beginning of this which is not what you
had hoped it would be—music and filibuster

A note from the author

I can’t stop thinking about how everything I owe to my descendants comes from things that were given to me, whether I had a choice or not—right down to language, or to aphorisms like “the world is your oyster,” or whakataukī like “kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua”—how can we possibly be responsible for the creation of an entire future when our present is the responsibility of a past? I wanted to take responsibility for my place in all this. What I can say, I can say because I have the language. But what don’t I have the language for? I don’t speak enough te reo Māori to express what I don’t feel connected to. Can I express that, somehow, in English, in what I do understand, in what I do speak? And if not, what responsibilities can I shoulder. What responsibilities can the present shoulder for my descendants?

Featured image, Te Aranga (2022), featuring Eliza Vawdrey-Roy by Ashley Emiko.
Additional image, Kōhatu (2024), featuring Lajcee Rakete-Miller by Ashley Emiko.


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