The Cherry Tree

He Rākau Tiere

(+ In memorium – R.M.P, 1935-2014)


is the time

the cherry shakes her flower

when the tui raises hell

up high

flurry scuffle sigh

and petals

give up the fight

and float away

softly now


on purse lipped


rangihīroa, cherry blossom, Ōwairaka, 2017

This was the year

the axe

was raised high

for you

my cherry tree

I asked two helmeted guys

sporting bright orange Huskies,

‘would you mind if I

save the trunk?’

one shrugs his shoulders


a chain of words

sink blade deep

‘Mate…she’s dead but still standing

if you know what I mean

just an old, diseased tree’

bit late, the other says, but go for it.

rangihīroa, cherry blossom, Ōwairaka, 2014

And so over the next couple of hours

I struggle

with the weight of you

your memories

your game-playing

and your hyperbole

stacked high


like these offcuts

pieces of something

broken down


neither sure of its’ footing

nor of what remains

so a free ride

is what I am offering

back home

small thanks

I know

for the near century

you spent saluting traffic along this road

heoi, he mihi nei

mō ngā peka hei te whakamaru

green leaves and shade in summer

and in spring

every day a wedding

or some win

as you

joyously toss

clouds of pink

and white petal

into the air

rangihīroa, Japanese cherry tree flowering, Ōwairaka, 2016

ngā whakawhetai ki a koe e rākau ora

I chant

as I push my galvanised waka

along St Lukes

carrying your delicate remains


slice by slice

until nothing

of you


but a small scar

near a concrete lip

a stump threatened by kikuyu

as we quote scripture and throw dirt over you

and back here, for those who go looking,

it is only Betty Rose Newick

cast in bronze

that will be remembered

But for you

nobody will remember this spot

where you once harvested the nor-wester

in those powerful limbs

now the nautilus will sweep over

and nobody will remember your place

while we test the roots

and fumble around

the hollow

to feel

where you once stood.

rangihīroa, MANAWA KOKOMEA ‘cherry – heart sunset’, heart crafted from deceased Japanese cherry chopped down, Ōwairaka (see below)

cherry tree standing, the hollow – cherry tree missing, 2016
rangihīroa, maumaharatanga ki te kaitiaki o taua rākau, Betty Rose Newick, Ōwairaka