Sport 15: white horse black dog
I am down here in the mud, the mud is everywhere. On some parts of the ground the mud is letting some grass through. I look down at my shoes. They are pale blue and muddy. There are so many people and I can mainly only see their legs. I am holding my father’s hand and we are walking slowly along The Line because my father knows everyone.
When I look up, there is someone with long hair, there are two old men, one with a black hat on, there is an old woman. The old woman is bending down to me, she puts her hands on my cheeks. She is kissing me with her mouth and pressing me with her nose, she has tears on her face. She is saying
… tēnākoe, moko, tēnākoutou, thank you for coming.
She leaves wetness on my face.
I see the man standing next to her. On his face there are patterns.
There is a turn-over feeling in my stomach. The patterns are dark green and his skin is dark brown. I want the man to come close so I can see the swirls and the lines and the circles, I want to touch them. I am staring at him and then I notice he is staring at me. He is smiling as if I have done something special, as if he knows me, as if he has been looking forward to seeing me. Come here, he says with his smile.
Whakatata mai, taku manawa. Mihi mai.
I reach out my hand and when he takes it, I feel very warm. he kneels down onto one knee, he doesn’t even mind about the mud. He leans our heads together and I feel his breath on my lips, he is making small sounds, warm sounds, like he wants to laugh.
When we are finished he stands up again.
My father takes my chin in his hand and looks at me.
This is The Prophet, my father says. This is our Prophet.
Can I touch your face, I ask, can I just touch the patterns—
Kāore, taku manawa.
Kaua e whāwhai.page 83
He rā anō āpōpō, he rā anō āpōpō.
The Prophet lives in The Garden, he speaks in The Language. I can understand him. I hear his words, I hear a tune and a rhythm in them and they come alive inside me somewhere. When he talks to The Strange Tribe, they understand him; when he speaks to The Grandmothers they understand him too.
Sometimes he wears a White Dress, with bright colours around the edges. Blue, red, white, purple, gold. Most of the time he wears jeans and an old leather jacket with fringes sprouting from round pieces of metal. Bare feet, he doesn’t mind about the mud.
The designs on his face make him look like The Ancestors.
His hair is so long he has to tie it up when the wind blows. And it is such a dark black it almost looks like The River at night, and so shiny, the way the water is in the dark. Always moving, and with the moon on it, or in it, or under it. Making it shine.
On the third day, we are eating breakfast. The smells are delicious, porridge and toast and sausages. Pots of tea too heavy to lift. On our table there are two fresh Loaves, lots of strawberry jam. This is the strawberry jam that came in the tins that me and my Dad brought with us. I got up early and helped Nanny Jack spoon it out from the tins onto the small white plates with the blue patterns around the edge.
I pass one of the small white plates to The Prophet, so he can put some jam on the bread he is buttering. The butter on his bread is thick and bright yellow.
He is wearing his Dress today.
When he takes the jam he smiles at me and spreads it on his bread.
Then he passes the bread to me.
E kai, taku manawa … e kai …
I don’t know why he is giving me his bread. I say thank you in The Language. I take a big bite.
The Prophet laughs and takes a big bite himself.
We eat nearly a whole Loaf.page 84
After breakfast some more people arrive. It has stopped raining, I am sitting under The Big Tree, I am a little bit sleepy.
These people are in a big bunch, their clothes seem to be making them hot. Most of the men are fat, especially the one who stands up to speak. The Prophet is listening very carefully to The Speaking Man.
We support your cause but
we do not support
your actions here
the patience of ordinary New Zealanders
Māori and Pākehā …
He is using other words
I am falling asleep in the sun. When I wake up I walk over to The Line and stand behind The Prophet. I see The Speaking Man from The Visitors is in The Line. He looks like he is scared. He looks like he wants to run away as The Prophet reaches out to him, taking hold of his hand and leaning towards him smiling. The Speaking Man keeps his eyes open as their foreheads and their noses touch.
Then The Prophet says something very softly to him, and because I am standing so close I can hear—
… he kihi tāu hei tuku mō te Tama a te tangata?
It is such a soft question it seems like The Prophet doesn’t really want an answer. The Speaking Man looks very frightened, or very sad. The Prophet drops his hand, looks the man in the face; for a moment they are looking at each other and it is hard to tell which one is the most scared or the most sad.
Then The Prophet turns away, turns towards the next person in The Line, reaches out his hand.
Sleeping in The House I am cold. My father’s breathing is heavy and loud. Everyone else is asleep but I am awake, listening to the wind and the rain.
I hear someone, someone is moving, standing. I can see The Prophet page 85 in the far corner of The House, he is wearing his White Dress and picking up his Stick. He is walking outside—why is he going outside into the rain—I get up and follow him. I can hear him. He is standing by The Big Tree and he is talking.
… tangohia atu tēnei kapu i ahau …
I move quietly and gently through the rain. I feel the mud under my feet, the rain is on my face and in my eyes.
The Prophet doesn’t see me. He is still talking, as if he is talking to the tree. The words he is saying echo around inside me; they are gathering together in my head and explaining themselves to me. My skin changes to cold, my heart becomes very loud—
scared scared why is The Prophet so scared—
and I am suddenly running to him. He hears me running and crying and he turns his face. His face, I can see his face in the floodlights, and he is—
—he is bleeding—
everywhere from the pores of his skin blood is dripping, filling his eyes and redding his White Dress—
no no no
—my breath catches in my body and I fall
with the blood and his face to the ground to the mud and the tree in my eyes and my head and then before I hit the ground—
he is holding me
and his face has no blood, there is no bleeding, just the beautiful patterns in the deep green colour. He is rocking me and crying, crying, so sad.
Don’t go, I am saying, don’t go, I want you to stay
my mouth is opening for The Language
kaua e whakarere atu
e noho ki konei
tiakina mai mātou
kaua e rere atu
then I am being carried, The Prophet is carrying me into The House, page 86 he is laying me down beside my father. The sadness and the words haven’t finished coming out of me, I can still feel the tears but he sings softly in The Language and I am fading, I am blacking into sleep—
they’ve got guns they’ve got guns
—the old woman’s high voice—my father dragging me by my arm out of bed and yelling at me
PUT ON YOUR JACKET—QUICKLY—DON’T YOU DARE GET OUT OF MY SIGHT YOU HEAR—
everyone is rushing, everyone is pushing past me and I trip over the mattress, I trip over the shoes and my Dad is pulling me, dragging me by the hand out of The House—shouting is everywhere—
WATCH OUT WATCH OUT
THEY’RE IN THE TREES THEY’RE
and the word is shouted as I hear the sound, the huge explosion, the world is shaking with explosions—the roaring—my father is dragging me—my ears are roaring—the earth is shaking—cracking—screaming—and I can see—
—he is running towards me with his hands in the air—his eyes are looking straight at me and he is shouting—something in The Language—
… kei wareware te rangimārie kei wareware te rangimārie …
… and in a frozen
his body arches
his head is thrown back and a sound comes
out of him
he is falling, he is falling
in my mind he is still
looking into my face
as he is falling
he is smiling andpage 87
holding out his hand to me
his hand to me—
We are sitting underneath The Big Tree, he is Making Singing with The Flute. I whisper to him
… where did they come from, Prophet, the beautiful patterns on your ace?
He smiles at me.
… from the trees and the sea shells … they come from the wind and the ferns, taku manawa…
He takes hold of my hand and opens my fingers. On my palm, a pāua shell. He tells me to look at it up close, right up close.
I hold it in front of my face and the colours start to move and swirl. First the green takes over and The Fern Frond appears. Then the blues move and change and I am under The Body of Water with The Shining Weed, pushed and pulled by the currents.
Then it is a pāua shell again, on my palm.
I am so happy I laugh, I hug the shell to my chest.
Show me again I want to see it again …
The Prophet starts his song again with The Flute.
He rā anō āpōpō, taku manawa. He rā anō āpōpō.