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
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
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.”