My neighbour is learning te reo. Man he’s proud.

His long body of white

flicking hair, conquering language. He doesn’t feel

an inch of guilt. Nothing. Man he’s proud.

I’ve learned my mihi, he says,

where you say your mountain and stuff. He struts

and tells me his mang-ga. His mow-anna.

He can tell me where I’m from too

he’s found a site

to trace my whakapapa for me. Shit that’s good.

It’s all on the internet now. Your iwi all the way back

to your waka.

Man, he’s proud. Do you know Poi E? he says.

Prince what’s his name. The big guy. You’d like it.

Manaakitanga mutes my thunder.

Eyes wide, short stepping him out of my whare.

Frightening the fuck out of him, beating

my drums at him. Who do you think you are?

You butcher me. Two hundred years

on you insult my whare

pissing your kōrero everywhere.

You represent no one, nothing,

when you speak.

When I speak, my pepeha


I speak with the consent of every single one of my ancestors:

She who nursed koroua through the Pākehā fever

he who married the forbidden

she who swam the rapids to rescue children

they who carried their pou from hīkoi to hīkoi

across the motu

so we could speak, I speak

I call to the mountain that forged shelter for us

the ground beneath that remembers every breath

loved here, lost here, fighting

right at your fucking feet.

Their blood the stratum reaching forward into the


accumulating, hardening

into this exact moment

into this very person who matters.

It matters what she says, it makes a difference every


not throw away, not nothing

not ever alone.

I am held up, infused, risk taking

with the strength of hands

who demand, shout or whisper, that I dig in my


makes them proud.

When I do they surround me

words, thoughts, hearts

swell, swell up behind me

feet askance

bodies wide open to the sky

voices harmonising in waiata

that resound, rise rise up.

No longer silent, the bones of Papatūānuku

afford speaking rights to all.

So, good on you, for learning the reo.

Man, you must be proud.

“Speaking rights” appears in the new poetry collection Sedition by Anahera Gildea (Taraheke / Bushlawyer, $30), available in bookstores nationwide. It will be launched at  Unity Books in Wellington on June 16 alongside Surrender by Michaela Keeble, also published by Taraheke / Bushlawyer,   “a collective of indigenous women writers and allies from Aotearoa and so-called Australia. We publish collectively to protect story sovereignty from the appropriative juggernaut of the book industry. All profits to #landback.”

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