10 SHADES OF CRIMSON

© Rangihīroa Panoho, 2020/2021. No part of this document (text or imagery) is free to be copied, plagiarised or shared for publication or for uses neither intended nor agreed on by the author without his express permission. Details for writing to the author are as follows: blueskypanoho@icloud.com The opinions expressed are those of Dr Panoho and not those of former employers or industry colleagues

nā Rangihīroa

written for the opening of Bruce Connew, ‘A Vocabulary’, Te Uru, Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, Titirangi 12 December 2020

E ngā mate. Ka mahara tātou ki ngā mumu Māori e takoto ana kei raro i ngā parekura o ngā pakanga whenua o mua. Haere, haere, haere. Haere ki te poho o te Atua, haere ki Hawaikinui, Hawaiki roa, Hawaiki pāmamao.

rangihīroa, Hato Mikaere, Ōhaeawai


The parekura
sits silent
no noise at all
just the chatter
of a tui
wrecking putiputi
down by the hall
just the wind
murmuring
across the fertile plains
he swore he heard their
voices around
Ngāi Kuku’s last remains
 
down by the river
where the fighting pā
once stood
or was it just the twittering of
piwakawaka
in the woods
 
the scale of the loss
disgusted him
it explained why he refused
the spirit path to Rēinga
instead he would choose
to guard over
bones and taonga
and mourn unmentioned loss
hidden from a nearby cenotaph
that refused to count the cost
 
raised to his last battle
near fields in which he toiled
he read the text again and again
as if it would reveal
some other truth or meaning
that might possibly transcend
a vocabulary of forgetting
bronze letters that won’t bend
colourful adjectives
murdering rebels, barbarous savages

he struggled with the message
they were a people worth forgetting

Indeed not a word
of his hapū’s bravery
no mention of their name
or that settler greed for land
was largely to blame
for a war they never asked for
how else could one explain
an eternity of loss within
a deep gnawing pain
 
and when archaeologists visit
he wishes he could yell
and call
Haere mai
E hoa, haul your trig over here, man
Yeah map us brother, draft us on that plan
 
but the grid only measures trenches
so we’ll always be missed
except by manuhiri
that want to take a mimi
 
and summer comes and summer goes
and the pōhutukawa bleeds
scarlet in the morning
10 shades of crimson
when the sun retreats

Pohutukawa ko tahi

Pohutukawa e rua
Pōhutukawa e toru..

Some notes regarding ’10 Shades…

My wife’s people, Te Aupōuri, live near Cape Rēinga. They along with iwi like Ngāti Kuri consider themselves gatekeepers to Te Rerenga o Wairua ‘the leaping off point of the Spirits’ at the northern extremity of Aotearoa. Many Polynesian Islands in South Pacific have their leaping off points. This role of kaitiakitanga at the departure point of wairua journeying to Hawaiki has created family histories where ghost stories are common. At times the Spirits stop along the way and there are visitations. The narratives told at night of encounters with the spirits are the most frightening and are remembered and passed on with relish and great drama.

10 Shades…, in essence, is a ghost story taken from the point of view of a toa ‘Māori warrior’ who decides not to take the path to Rēinga and remains with his whānau and the warriors he fought with on a Ngā Pakanga Whenua o Mua battefield. In the poem one of the greatest struggles the central character has is accepting a memorial inscription raised near the battlefield. History, so the saying goes, is written by the victors.

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