Now the grandsons have a job they can do.
Are they paint or shadow?
There is something of the swan about them.
Are there birds on the horizon?
Clouds of black rise from their shovels,
perhaps believers, or sandflies
or grains of sand. Clouds of
alphabet, impossibly sad faces and someone
struggling up out of them with a guitar.
Perhaps this is Christ himself.
There are black crowds and white crowds.
A man with his ear pressed to a cold mirror.
Are those squalls, or a cling
of tiny black mussels on rock
sharp little barnacles?
In the sky there are muscular men holding each other
or they are holding a baby
or they are holding each other as they would a baby.
They walk and wheel away.
New ones take their place, dust devils,
the earth is sand here.
An older couple like Roman numerals
in volkswagen green cardigans.
Spilled cream or cordial a day later.
This is the face of an old man held in his own hands.
The floor is so cold it could be old cocoa.
This is a naked man trying to squat
a naked man trying to get up from squatting.
This is people gathered, beast-like,
their bent heads have leaves for ears.
Born in 1968, Hinemoana Baker is a prodigiously gifted singer/songwriter/poet of Maori and European descent. Written in memory of a family member, ‘Burial’ draws its almost calligraphic imagery from Colin McCahon's littoral painting Walk (Series C) (1973)--a frieze-like evocation of Muriwai Beach, near Auckland. McCahon's painting, accompanied by some responses by other New Zealand poets, can be found here: http://arts.tepapa.govt.nz/on-the-wall/walk-with-me. The final line of Baker's poem alludes to the Maori tradition whereby the family of the deceased wear tightly woven wreaths of kawakawa leaves around their heads. She has made numerous recordings and written three collections of poetry, most recently waha / mouth (Victoria University Press, 2014)--further information go here. Her first collection, matuhi / needle (co-published in the United States by actor Viggo Mortensen’s Perceval Press in 2004) contains one of the most succinct sporting poems ever written in New Zealand:
he needs to let the game go
he needs to go back to Townsville
he needs to know we didn’t drive seven hours
to listen to him play his whistle.