Al Noor mosque under armed police patrol on March 22, 2019 (Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images)

The Friday Poem: ‘Massacre’ by Tusiata Avia

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 stand

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


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