Tuesday Poem-The Restless Bones of Aotearoa

‘So,’ asked the young man

‘you know about Gallipoli?’

Well yes of course it’s always in the papers.’

But what about New Zealand?’ he added.

‘What of when we killed one another?

GatePa, Kaiapoi, Kawhia, Kororareka?’


Kaikoura,’ I rejoined. ‘I walked a hillside there

and felt the cold air rushing through the grasses.

And I have seen the Hawthorn flower in blood red spatters

on the cliffs at Rangihaeata

where  in the tick of night

ancient war cries drift.’


‘And heard the sounds as waves meet rock

where restless bones still lie.’


© Helen McKinlay

Without detracting from the importance of Anzac Day I have to say it has always struck me as odd that we talk so much about our part in war overseas and not much about the many battles which happened here and not too long ago.

This poem is part of a longer poem cycle in which I explore my relationship, (as a pakeha woman) to New Zealand culture past and present.

Please return to Tuesday Poetry Blog  to devour multiple delicious poetic treats!


4 thoughts on “Tuesday Poem-The Restless Bones of Aotearoa”

  1. I agree, Helen – we should remember those desperate and unnecessary wars fought at home, and they are often passed over. Your poem is a poignant reminder – I love the sounds that you seem so attuned to, the whispers of the land, the air, the cliffs. I’d love to see more of the poem cycle 🙂

  2. Thanks Elizabeth. This is just a fragment, but today being Anzac Day here, I thought it appropriate. Rangihaeta has marvellous cliffs and I could never walk there without being conscious of the past. I will publish the whole poem one day. 🙂

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