The sound of a piano is ringing through this ocean,
4 simple notes alongside,
They are tied together by the fisherman’s knot,
With the ends neatly clipped,

The tide is low, shallow in this sink,
The shoulder of the coast is no longer submerged,
My belly rested on the seabed,
I have not the strength to ask, but I am listening…

The piece of music is biological,
An algorithm with an end,
4 primary colours on a palette that is the arm of the painter,
I am your brush…

The bed upon which my belly rests is warm,
Finer than feathers…
A casket around my body, but no dark hole…

Gentle hands & a rocking chair,
       & From their palms the same 4 notes,
       But not a piano…
       A gut string guitar…
       Handed down through 4 generations,
“Infant, girl, woman & grandmother”
The branches of my whakapapa are being clipped,
With secateurs,
& Musical instruments, unfretted,
My carcass is made up of leaves that fall in spring
How far have I travelled?
The miles have collapsed, but the seawater is made up of tuku tuku panels,
Navigating our way through the whare,
I am inside…

She is wailing, weaving freshly picked flax between the 4 notes,
My ears tell me she is beautiful…
For there is no seam in her voice…
I drink… But my vessel is almost dry,

We are one tree, one body…
Fed by the same root & connected by the same fisherman’s knot,
I am my brothers & sisters & they are me…

My skin is growing cold, dry,
Spilling a glass of clear oil that is swallowed up by the sand,
       The oil is the mystery of consciousness,
       An undefined quantity that now runs through their fingers,
I did not ask, but I am grateful for their help…

I have never seen without the lens of seawater,
The undulation of the ocean is like a pulse,
I have fallen… but the music has not died for the instrument is now a bamboo flute,
                      & a child…

My mother is near me, but she is dead now,
dissolving into the tuku tuku panels,

They are crying for what has been spilt,
& they will cry for me too…

Gentle hands, & the rocking chair, carved from the finest tree,
Crafted by the most gifted of makers…

I did not ask… & you came…

Ranganui no Ohaka

1. Ranginui broke down into pieces
Wandering through the
Narrow streets of Gotoku-ji,
He held the wounded sky in his hand,
Muttering words of no language…
Autumn, winter, summer, spring had no shape bundled together like knotted
string within his closed fist,

2. His feet upon the abdomen of Papatuanuku,
Laying warm fingers upon stiff flesh,
“She felt not like this” locked in his volts of bracken & seawater…
“They never bothered to look under their feet, did they?”

3. Through scattered crowds of priests, carpenters, factory workers & rusted cans,
He squeezed the seasons in his hand,
Then laid them out on the tarseal and tried to unravel them,
His brow as heavy as concrete,
Concrete laid by the construction workers passing by,
Precise dots and long canals of steel they built, without memory,

4. The crowds parted for him,
Like Moses without his God, he would have drowned,
Ranginui was no Maori god, not then…
A beggar and a paper cup, looking for the ends of the string he’d lost,
4 seasons, 8 ends & toxic clouds,

5. Ranginui was the name given to him by his father,
Behind the shroud of the sky…
Listening with ears to the thin walls of the sky,
Like Shoji doors that pierce when the planes scatter like needles through silk,

6. Ranginui was never a boy,
The weight of the sky would have been too great for growing shoulders,
So he was conceived with limbs like a Totara tree, his eyes unfolding the colours
like origami as they entered, passing through the gate,

7. The same fingers that now fumbled through the dirty string,
Eroded like river stones on the curbs of the bank,

8. The woman at the butcher’s shop perished at the sight of Ranginui’s despair,
She fell through the cracks of the street,
Into the hole that opened up for her when she realised her sky father had fallen
like a pigeon,

9. When she looked up, the sky was not there,
Of constructs and bones,
The decorative silks pulled down to the earth,
Like tugging the cloth from the kitchen table,

10. Ranginui lay his body over the string of the seasons that he could not untangle,
His arms outstretched, his left cheek flush to the white line, his feet foraging for
cover like a crab in the sand,
He held tight to the mid rib of Papatuanuku digging his fingers into the curve of
her lowered back,
& There he stayed,

11. No-one ever noticed him & never did they realise the sky was empty,
The clothes torn down,
Only the beams and naked nails above that weaken little by little,
Until finally they will fall,
The branches will split at the trunk of the tree…

12. The tree that grows in someone else’s garden.

(c) Ben Kemp. All rights reserved.

The bottom half of an image of a flax frond.