It’s Winter in the top half of the world, but south of the equator, the Sun is smiling.
Hone Tuwhare (1922 -2008) was born in Kaikohe, Northland, New Zealand into the Maori Ngapuhi tribe. Well-known and much-loved in his own country, his collections of poetry are rare finds elsewhere. The Campbell Albatross migrates to New Zealand in September or October, and nests through January or February — spring and summer there.
Toroa ~ Albatross
by Hone Tuwhare
Day and night endlessly you have flown effortless of wing
over chest-expanding oceans far from land.
Do you switch on an automatic pilot, close your eyes
in sleep, Toroa?
On your way to your homeground at Otakou Heads
you tried to rest briefly on the Wai-te-mata
but were shot at by ignorant people. Crippled.
You found a resting place at Whanga-nui-a-Tara;
found space at last to recompose yourself.
Now, without skin and flesh to hold you together
the division of your aerodynamic parts lies whitening,
licked clean by sun and air and water. Children will
discover narrow corridors of airiness between,
the suddenness of bulk. Naked, laugh in the gush
and ripple — the play of light on water.
You are not alone, Toroa. A taniwha once tried
to break out of the harbour for the open sea. He failed.
He is lonely. From the top of the mountain nearby he
calls to you: Haeremai, haeremai, welcome home, traveller.
Your head tilts, your eyes open to the world.
A ‘taniwha’ is supernatural creature of Maori legend which lives in watery caves or rivers, and is strong enough to uproot trees —‘haeremai’ means welcome
“Toroa ~ Albatross” from Deep River Talk, © 1994 by Hone Tuwhare, University of Hawaii Press
Toroa – wood sculpture by Todd Couper
One of the greatest joys of writing happens when a reader responds to something in your work, and then shares with you something from their own experience. I am deeply grateful to janis b, who was kind enough to introduce me to Hone Tuwhare.