The Adulterers


Three days you lay sick from what I had done,
with the knowledge of our nights inside you.
Like spilled ink that flows into atrocious purples,
they cannot be taken back.

Your maid tried to kill herself,
the shame had become like an unbearable child.
Kneeling before her confession,
she wore that thick and ugly whiteness
that spurred us both on to seize our forfeit paradise.

This world of doll-like beauty,
the weight of a thousand-year-old paper folding fans,
which we dared to destroy with our bodies’ provocations,
ranges against us now with measured ferocities.

It is now, when at last I have lost you to them
that the vision of your soiled cloaks sears me.

Through layer after layer the ink comes, irrevocable,
mixing our dark bloom of love with
finely sutured lotuses, sullen tigers, impossible cranes.

Were those robes not like exquisite chambers
which this century had meticulously prepared for you?
When the ink breached them, we both wept with joy,
for they became the one pristine debasement I could offer you.

A History

Not all history is written down
in bone white books,
trapped between full stops.
We occidentals have made an art
of pickling our history in jars,
scrutinizing dead parchment
and forcing dusty patients to speak.
Envy the history of the forests though,
of the people we once conquered.
Theirs remains still too immense to write down,
or translate into marrow and paper.
The carriers of that kura wānanga
just inhale and know it happened,
know birth happened,
know war happened,
know oracles happened,
know weeping happened,
know skies happened.
No need to kill it in a book shop,
dissect it from a podium.
It’s there in the brightly folded faces
of the kaumātua,
their rich voices that haul it back
from oceans where it always swam,
it’s there on the love-worn, stained notches,
staff of the long recounted dead,
the living, breathing dead.