The Colonist

Finally out of the tangle,
the stubborn undergrowth,
the dripping sky
that descended like subterfuge,
his gentle field,
laid out like a picnic,
emerged.

The forest still
reared its cold, damp mane
at his approach,
but there was something now
he had as reply.
And from the larder,
the woman,

who was no longer
young and gentle,
ferried the raw materials
he tore with calloused thumbs
from the earth
into jars, into cupboards,

sweetening, smoothing,
caramelizing the savage man
that the land was
daily tearing from him,
as if he were his fraying shirt.

She too was part of
his quarrel with the bush.
With her he’d teach it
to part its hair,
to accept the fields,
to accept the basin and the soap,
and above all the harvest.

And the forest reconciled herself
with this man,
for their treaty was neither
wholly hers or the invader’s.

And they were,
in their own ways,
immovable forces, bearing down,
hewing the other
into transformation.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014

The Invasion of the Sea

At first it was just a trickle.
Like unusual shells,
the strangers,
salted by their long journeys,
washed up with the tides.

The chiefs were keen to barter
what they had,
flax, food, women,
for the trinkets, the nails, the cloth,
above all, the muskets.

And every man who counted
soon had “his” Pakeha,
an invisible fish-line
to that cold world of iron.

The chiefs, one by one,
fell to its power,
grew bold and puffed up
in the eyes of their rivals.
With their guns they had
old scores to settle,

and soon the land
was caked in the black powder
and the Maori had undergone
the first tragedy
of their long, agonizing century.

And all the while
the strangers trickled in,
with books, bread, bronchitis,
but they waded into a Maori lake,
made islands, made terms.

Then, on the shores of Te Aro,
Te Wharepouri saw with astonishment
one thousand of these strangers
step off their ships,

and called it an invasion of the sea,
the salt water people,
who would rush into
the eddies of the Maori stream,
sicken the waters
of the green stone children.

But Te Wharepouri made the most of it,
did a brisk business with the new comers,
while they eagerly took,
and stayed like a congealed tide.

Copyright Ricky Barrow 2014