Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

BooksJuly 22, 2022

The Friday Poem: ‘Whenua’ by Nicky Andrews

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

A new poem by writer and academic Nicky Andrews.


The word “whenua” can mean
ground, country, domain, after
birth, land/s, and placenta in te reo

Māori. I was born three months pre
mature, my mother labouring for both
our lives. In their haste, the doctors threw out

my placenta, like a used cotton swab.
It is said that a buried whenua binds the
baby to its place of birth, both in spirit and

body. Relegated to medical
waste, my whenua bound me to Accident and
Emergency. A regular at Starship, my

mother revived me on numerous
occasions, CPR drills a hard re
set for my failing body, attention and

toys enough to keep me at ease.
An adult abroad, I’ve had several
surgeries now, while my mother declined

surgery, then declined slowly. Both governed by
Hospital Time’s blandness, we talked small in
to the expansive nothingness of hours

I’d give anything for more
of. Red whenua, they don’t call
it the damn mother land for nothing.


The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are welcome and will be open until 31 July 2022. Please send up to three poems in a Word or PDF document to

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Aotearoa continues to adapt to a new reality and The Spinoff is right there, sorting fact from fiction to bring you the latest updates and biggest stories. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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