“Black Map” of Christchurch, 1850. (Image: Archives New Zealand, reference CAYN 23142 CH1031 Box 179/ 273.)
“Black Map” of Christchurch, 1850. (Image: Archives New Zealand, reference CAYN 23142 CH1031 Box 179/ 273.)

BooksNovember 26, 2021

The Friday Poem: The City Fathers, by Tusiata Avia

“Black Map” of Christchurch, 1850. (Image: Archives New Zealand, reference CAYN 23142 CH1031 Box 179/ 273.)
“Black Map” of Christchurch, 1850. (Image: Archives New Zealand, reference CAYN 23142 CH1031 Box 179/ 273.)

A new poem by Tusiata Avia.

 

The City Fathers

 

James Edward Fitzgerald, first Superintendent of Canterbury Province, 1853-1857.

Minister of Native Affairs, 1861.

 

William Sefton Moorehouse, twice Superintendent of Canterbury Province, 1857- 1863

and 1866 -1868.

Twice!

 

Samuel Bealey, third Superintendent of Canterbury Province, 1863 to 1866.

I stole (COUGHS), I mean owned, 50, 000 acres of Ngai Tahu land.

 

William Rolleston, fourth Superintendent of Canterbury Province 1868-1877.

Minister of Native Affairs, 1881.

I ordered the invasion of Parihaka, their blood is on my hands.

 

We sit and stand above the 4 avenues

named for us

we mark the center of our city

you speak us into life every time you plan where to go.

 

Listen closely:

our voices float up out of the parks like smoke from Belsen

the streets whisper our genocide

each avenue a forgotten landgrab.

Our voices are in the breath of each suburb

and the prisons are full.

 

Well done, Rolleston, old chap!

 

You speak our names again and again

Moorehouse

Bealey

Rolleston

Fitzgerald

this is how you tell each other where you are going

and how we still preside over you.

 

We stand on plinths in the city and wait

for the new murderers

the land thieves

and the rapists.

 

It’s not long to wait

(in the scheme of things)

here comes the Christchurch shooter

 

if you can say our names

as if they are names to be proud of

then surely, we can say his.

 

Build him a statue to join us

he is made in our image.

Massacre and theft –

it’s what we built this country on.

 

Let us remember our good friend

George Grey.

Governor of New Zealand, 1845 to 1868.

The massacrist of Waikato

 

a clever chap

he stole 3 million acres of land

and then went to Africa

to rape and pillage some more.

 

If one day you replace us

then erect statues to modern day murderers

twenty first century thieves

latter day white supremacists.

 

Replace Queen Victoria

with her granddaughter

Mrs Windsor of the House of Slaughter

and Horatio Herbert Kitchener

the inventor of the concentration camp.

 

Oh, we are a sterling group of men!

Yes, we are a fine, top notch, first grade, stellar bunch of men.

 

 

The Friday Poem is edited by Chris Tse. Submissions are welcome and will be open until 31 December 2021. Please send up to three poems to chris@christse.co.nz.

 

The Spinoff Review of Books is proudly brought to you by Unity Books, recently named 2020 International Book Store of the Year, London Book Fair, and Creative New Zealand. Visit Unity Books Wellington or Unity Books Auckland online stores today. 

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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