David Howard

Overture: Aotearoa

I'm not aware that anyone has yet documented why so much of our best creative intelligence should have to be drugged. 

– Douglas Lilburn


Like the light in a wardrobe
your dream of nationhood without nationalism, always
drawing the moths that destroy uniforms

without lasting. Open the drawer
on rugby socks, jockstraps, polyester shirts
monogrammed with the silver fern.

One size fits all. Your father's clothes fit
a scarecrow, your mother's stitch-in-time gives
way to a tin of buttons and one blunt needle.

This song includes special ukulele accompaniment.


Their cri de coeur I Was
McCahon Glover Baxter and Tuwhare
snore for the afternoon that is New Zealand

making it new: Aotearoa. You
unscrew the top, sip through a litre,
sing Shall we gather at the river?

Your bottle rolls like the 'r' in redemption.
Thumbing through a foreign grammar
you find aroha and set up house in its vowels.

The bellbird sings out of tune with Western tempered scales.


To justify your life in others' eyes
you must become the telling
glance. There they are in triplicate: the authorities

directing the wind that crumbles the black stump until, breathless,
you guess there must be one reason
the heart beats faster the closer you get

to nowhere: Aotearoa. Expecting to see
the birthplace of your grandfather, you find
your granddaughter's totara christening bowl.

Repeat as required.

Author’s Note


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