A new poem by acclaimed poet and performer Tusiata Avia.
Thursday 14 March
When I arrive in Auckland and Hine learns that I have moved back to Christchurch
she asks me if I know it is a bad place
it is built on a swamp
many bad things have been done to Māori there
Yes, I tell her and remember standing, six years old
in the hallway, the swamp spirits rising up through the floor.
Walking to school through them
sitting beside them on the bus.
Friday 15 March
The white spirits rise up from the swamp and many bad things happen
the white spirits rise up from the swamp and kill those who kneel and pray
and walk and run
and punch the windows out with their bare hands
and drag themselves through the glass
and stumble and fall
and find the body of a boy
and close his eyes
and take his cellphone from his hand
and tell his mother screaming through it
that her son is dead
and then they stand again
and run and run and run and run.
We, white men who have carved ourselves into statues and guard the four avenues, rise
we, Queen Victoria – made of stone – who stares into the air past every kind of massacre, rise
we, far right, we rise
we, skinheads, we rise
we, the white supreme, we rise
we are white ghosts and we rise up out of the swamp.
You cry and shake as if the earthquake is coming
but we are not here for you.
We are here for the three-year-old Muslim boy
for the 71-year-old Muslim man
for the 45-year-old Muslim man
and his 16-year-old son
for the 44-year-old Muslim woman
the 65-year-old grandmother
the 14-year-old Muslim boy
the 25-year-old Muslim woman.
We are here for 101 Muslims
we are not here for you.
You can lock down your schools and your buildings
and your pain can come and go
but we don’t care, we have not come here for you.
We will not chase you through Hagley Park
we are here on holy day Friday for Al Noor Mosque
we will not chase you through Eastgate Mall
we are here on holy day Friday for Linwood Masjid.
We are only killing the people you have been calling the terrorists
and today, we look like Fortnight.
Sunday 17 March
I watch Jacinda at Al Noor
she is in a black and gold hijab
she says many things but she has her hand over her heart
she keeps it there.
The spirits have sunk back out of sight
you are watching that ‘individual’ from Australia
you are saying to me: He isn’t us.
But I grew up with him
he was Eddie the skinhead in my science class
everybody knew him
he had a Māori girlfriend for a while
and wore a Nazi trenchcoat which you told me was cool.
Remember, you grew up with him
he was Danny, not in your class
because he was younger than you
but you watched him walk through the playground
with his bootboy boots and his swastikas.
It was Christchurch – and all the other places –
back when you were young
and it was cool and it was the fashion
it was the fashion and you and I were into it.
Friday 22 March
In Auckland I sit at the vigil
the women of Ngāti Whātua call to the sacred land across Tāmaki Makaurau
the women call to the martyrs, to the broken-hearted
the women do the grieving for us
the women remind us of Parihaka and Ruatoki
the murdered and their murderers.
The women say
that they have been fighting since Captain Cook landed
and after they grieve, they will fight.
A white man who could be scary in another place
hands me a sign and I take it.
It says ‘NZ was founded on White Supremacist Violence’.
He looks into my eyes, I nod and hoist it to my shoulder.
I watch a white woman weep and tell me it is hard to be white
I read a poet say he feels the shame
of talking about how he feels.
A white poet can only talk about how he feels
I can only talk about how I feel
I can only weep like the white woman
and write you this poem that will not end