Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

BooksOctober 23, 2020

The Friday Poem: Crumbs between stones by Becky Manawatu

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

A poem by Ockham Award-winning novelist Becky Manawatu.

Crumbs between stones

Tēnā koe XXXX

I am writing to ask you some questions regarding a family harm incident which police responded to on Friday night.

  1. What time did the woman make the initial call?
  2. What time did police arrive at the scene?
  3. Was anyone arrested?
  4. If so, what was their age, sex?
  5. What were they charged with?
  6. When will they appear in court?
  7. What time did the woman stop crying?

Ngā mihi,





I am writing to find out about your drive to gain more members to the league.

1. Can you tell me how many members you currently have?

 2. What will the membership drive include?

3. What are the benefits of becoming a member?

4. Does loneliness ever make you want to have sex with other members?




Hello again XXXX

I hear some anonymous member of the community has donated a tonne of catfood! Wow!

Can you tell us: how much?

Where did they leave it?

How did staff feel when they found it?

Have you ever worried that one day you will be so hungry you will eat the cats’ food?

Thanks again,

Oh – and any chance I can come grab a pic? (You will have to be in it, and at least one cute kitten!!)





Can you send me a picture of snow up there today?

How deep do you think the snow is (in centimetres)?

Has anyone ever put fresh sheets on your bed turned on your electric blanket for you and told you ‘it’s so cold, go rest your pretty head sweetheart’?




Good morning XXXX

Thank you for the tip – I am following up, but can you tell me on a scale of one to 13, how sure are you that the rats didn’t know the sea is coming for us anyway?





Hi again XXXX

As I have mentioned in an earlier email, unless you can tell me what was wrong with the original story, we cannot make the correction. But let me ask, does your home have double glazed windows or do they weep on a grim day like today? It is not for publication – just I worry.




Tēnā koutou katoa,

Thank you for the invitation to the pōwhiri. I look forward to it.

Will there be a photo opp?

And will there be time – at least 80 seconds – for us strangers to stand under the trees and hold each other quite tightly (despite alert level 3 restrictions)?

Ngā mihi,




Tēnā koe XXXX

Thank you for the invitation to the pōwhiri. I am sorry I did not turn up.

I got distracted digging a deep hole in the garden and once I did, I lay in it, and I fell asleep.

I wanted to call you when I came out of the hole but my hands were so caked in dirt, the phone couldn’t decipher what I was trying to tell it. When I finally cleaned myself up I got in the car to make the trip but I looked in the rear vision mirror to put on my lipstick and flip my hair the way I like it best. This was how I found the clew of worms. I picked the worms out one by one (there were 38 in total) but when I was finished I discovered it was midnight and I was sure the pōwhiri would be done and dusted and I would arrive and there would be just the birds and crumbs from the cakes served for the morning tea. I thought about the crumbs that might be hidden from the birds, trapped between stones. I thought on those crumbs and those birds for longer than I should have – perhaps until around 4.30am. Then I concluded there would no longer be a photo opp or possibility for us to hold each other under the trees because even if you were still there waiting and waiting, looking at your watch, your disappointment in having bothered to invite me in the first place, would have felt stabbing, damning; I am sure.

As an aside I burned all my clothes and buried the ashes in the hole I dug.

I concluded that without clothes on I just could not have explained myself very well

kanohi ki te kanohi.

However, I hoped you could still answer a few questions:

How many people attended the pōwhiri?

Was the weather nice?

Did anyone get a picture we can use?

Please let me know about the next special occasion – I will try harder to be there in the future.

Mauri ora,




Dear XXX

We are working to get the answers to your questions.

In the meantime, we can tell you the woman did not stop crying until August 20 at 11.36am having cried for 835 hours 12 minutes and 48 seconds. She is also to be arrested and charged with reckless breach of the peace.

Thank you for your patience,



The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are currently closed and will open again in early 2021.

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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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