16 January 2008

Hone Tuwhare

Evening surf, Wairarapa

Hone Tuwhare died today. As was the case with Ed Hillary, I'd been bracing myself for this for some time. I wrote this poem a few years ago.

Tuwhare's Mussel

what words could ever say
what you ask for. for him.
it’s worse than wrenching winter
mussels from wild rocks wet
fingers numb, cut and the sea

saying one day, one day mate i’ll
claim y’ back. fed you all these
years the saltsweet kai moana;
kutai, kina, fishheads to get eyeballs
rolling, the black-muscled foot
food for your soul. not just
that lipsmack and belly i’ve fed.

You think, sea, the victory’s yours
as you eye him up alone and barefoot
on the final coast the same wind
rarking up his hair, your combers, rolling
and sliding under the flexing wings of
toroa back from your midnight heave.
his only land between his toes
his world a whorl of words one’s lost
to emulate spiralling inwards around
reflection. You think the tide will turn
believe your smack and thump, your
kelp-coil surge and suck will claim him
seafood, land and all, a feed of muscles,
slurp him down and belch him back—

Sea, you forget his words
claim you.

Kai moana: seafood; kutai: mussels; kina: sea urchin; toroa: albatross.

1 & 2. Evening on the Wairarapa Coast, January 2008.

Photos and words © 2008 Pete McGregor


Ruahines said...

Kia ora Pete,

Anne-Marie said...

In my opinion, the media response to Hone Tuwhare’s death was just as Ed Hillary’s should have been. It was an important story, but it didn’t take up half the news bulletin. There was no mention of the words “god”, “icon”, “legend” or other similar hyperboles. He was a well-respected and well-loved poet whose beautiful poem, Rain, was recently voted New Zealanders’ favourite poem (it’s certainly one of my favourites).

Actually, I was pleased the media seemed to think Hone Tuwhare’s death was of enough note to record. He wasn’t a mountain climber or an All Black. New Zealanders tend not to take much notice of their poets, since they don’t score trys (tries?).

Love the poem, Pete. And the photos...sigh. I love the Wairarapa coast.

pohanginapete said...

Robb, thank you.

Anne-Marie: Well said. And "Rain" is indeed a beautiful poem. Among many others of his, "No Ordinary Sun" also affects me deeply; simultaneously beautiful and chilling. I'm less sure about your suggestion that we don't take much notice of our poets — the number of people who turned up for Glenn Colquhoun's reading a few months ago would suggest otherwise (Glenn, incidentally, is a good friend of Hone Tuwhare). It's true that poets are never likely to have the standing of sporting heroes in Aotearoa, but that's likely to be similar everywhere.