I hate being stuck up here, glaciated, hard all over
and with my guts removed: my old lady is not going
to like it
I’ve seen more efficient scare-crows in seed-bed
nurseries. Hell, I can’t even shoo the pigeons off
Me: all hollow inside with longing for the marae on
the cliff at Kohimarama, where you can watch the ships
come in curling their white moustaches
Why didn’t they stick me next to Mickey Savage?
‘Now then,’ he was a good bloke
Maybe it was a Tory City Council that put me here
They never consulted me about naming the square
It’s a wonder they never called it: Hori-in-the-gorge-at-
bottom-of-Hill. Because it is like that: a gorge,
with the sun blocked out, the wind whistling around
your balls (your balls mate) And at night, how I
feel for the beatle-girls with their long-haired
boy-friends licking their frozen finger-chippy lips
hopefully. And me again beetling
my tent eye-brows forever, like a brass monkey with
real worries: I mean, how the hell can you welcome
the Overseas Dollar, if you can’t open your mouth
to poke your tongue out, eh?
If I could only move from this bloody pedestal I’d
show the long-hairs how to knock out a tune on the
souped-up guitar, my mere quivering, my taiaha held
at the high port. And I’d fix the ripe kotiros too
with their mini-piupiu-ed bums twinkling: yeah!
Somebody give me a drink: I can’t stand it
Hone Tuwhare(1922-2008) was born in Kaikohe, of Ngapuhi descent. One of New Zealand’s best known and loved, he has been described as the people’s poet. The above poem is printed with kind permission from Hone’s son Rob Tuwhare. Originally published in SAP-WOOD & MILK (1972) it is taken from ‘Small Holes in the Silence, Collected Works, Random House NZ, 2011. (See cover photo above.) Many thanks Rob.
I asked for permission to publish this poem because I really enjoyed it…on many levels. Once I began to research it, I discovered a lot of other people felt the same. It bursts with vitality and humour and also sympathy for the statue’s predicament. These factors give the reader pleasure, apart from understanding and yet on a serious level the poem deals with racial discrimination, political issues, and Maori land rights.
Hone’s author entry from The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Literature, edited by Roger Robinson and Nelson Wattie (1998), describes it as ‘one of his best known poems,, remarkably rich in its edged allusions to the political, economic and class contexts of race relations in New Zealand, and in its imaginative play with formal and colloquial English and Maori idioms, and with the cultural meanings carried by particularities of location in urban and suburban Auckland. The assumption of a familiar context shared unselfconsciously with his New Zealand readership is crucial to the effect of this poem (as in all Tuwhare’s mature work); because of the density of local allusion and idiom almost every line would require annotation for overseas readers.’
For those who wish to better understand some of the references in the poem, click here for an excellent power point presentation which as well as giving details about Hone and his work shows pictures of the statue and the marae.
Go here for the Arts Foundation NZ biography of Hone.
And now please return to the delights of the Tuesday Poem Hub where Mark Pirie is today’s guest editor with a poem about the All Blacks.