Res Publica! What good are you
to me when I’m outnumbered? Was I
too soft, too weak, too glad to die,
too quick to let my subjects do
to me what I couldn’t do to them?
They shared some clever stratagem,
those interlopers, and every word
they traded drove my holding lower.
Enraged, ashamed, unhinged — and spurred
by pangs unspeakable — I ploughed my tent
with feet aflail, a raving hoer,
to cultivate some implement
with weight or blade enough to kill.
I kicked and combed and rummaged, until,
at last, I found that stake (still flagged)
with which my island first was tagged.
And next to it some heavy length
of anchor’s chain. I drove the rusted
dagger through one ring, adjusted
its assailing angle. How little strength
was needed to swing this deadly dart
with all the force and skill and art
once flourished by the Stegosaurus,
which felled its foes with old knive’s tail.
(Look at me – puns of behaviour so warrish.
I’m like the TV news, with stirring
songs to score the worst travails).
above my head. ‘One man I bore
when half all men I was. But war
I’ll wage the moment my authority
becomes one less than a majority.’
‘I say, I bore one man. This land
we settled together. But later ships
must be repelled — as Tasman’s trip
to Nova Sealand was unmanned.
Just one Dutch sailor slain, devoured,
was all it took to keep those cowards
away a century and more! ‘Til Cook
arrived — a worthy man, it’s true.
But saint or sinner, Christ or crook,
the flesh still tastes the same. Too long
we waited. We should have Cooked that stew
at Poverty Bay. Heke was wrong,
and, too, Te Kooti, Te Whiti, Iti
— they all were late, too late. The Treaty
was signed. By 1858
we were outnumbered. What fools to wait!’
‘But me? Blah-ha! Not me!’
the chain, and through the drunken wind,
and rocks with flashing moonlight finned,
I moved – or rather, lunged and flung
myself in mad marauder’s sprint.
‘Let sandflies eat your Treaty’s print,
as what’s-his-name, old man in the photo,
once counselled for patience. Patience? Ah yes,
Kawiti — no. Chief Maniapoto?
But not Arcady! This settlement matter
I’ll settle. A splattered grey-mattered mess.
And then the table, I’ll settle, with platters
of battered men (a buffeted buffet).
My stomach, I’ll settle, with twin soufflé
of offal baked and waffled brown.
I’ll settle accounts. Then settle down.’
‘Be gone, invaders!’
I cocked my arm
to strike, for I was close enough
to bash two skulls with just one cuff
of halberd chain. But sensing harm
in my approach –
‘Slow down, now let’s
discuss this first…’
my whoops and threats
and epithets, my out-thrust tongue
and popping eyes, my howling pledge
to kill, to eat – from this they sprung
in clumsy leaps, like gibbons greased
and flopping toward the island’s edge.
They split two ways. Sayeed squirmed East
and Dexter West. I shouted: ‘Pai-
marire hau hau!’ – a battle cry
my uncle taught me – and chose to hunt
the hairy actuarial runt.
I saw the Simian splash and kick
and heard him squeal. The rocks were slick –
(I said that already) – all of them dressed
like plump, esteemed and fashionable guests,
with nacreous ties and velvety vests;
tuxedo shadows, barnacle buttons,
as if attending a dinner, or wedding.
Fat-men immobile, those rocks. Gluttons
ossified, stone-cold. But now they seemed
to come alive, profusely sweating,
pulsing, shifting about. They teamed
around my leaping legs; and now
and then – while ‘Paimariri hau hau,’
I screamed – they tried to claw my skin.
And then one punched me in the chin.
More Tuesday Poems at Tuesdaypoem.blogspot.com.