Mihi ia Tongareva



Hedges of hibiscus,

 roofs of flamboyante

high above the roadways,

 stained with bright blood,

  cannot contain

my longing for Tongareva.

 Thick as stars

  are the blossoms

under the tipani tree —

useless to sweep them away,

 when they keep falling

  fast as my tears.


 My husband,

when we were first married,

you were like the mango tree,

  surpassing other men

  as this tree

surpasses other trees

 in strength and beauty.

I was like the maire,

  growing unnoticed

until you noticed me.

How the young girls envied me

when I carried off the prize

 for the best hula dancer

  in Avarua!

You were the prize I won —

 I danced for you.

  Old man,

these heavy hips

 can swing as teasingly,

pound as fiercely as any

that have stunned the loungers

 in the Banana Court.


   The tipani,

though old and gnarled,

still aches with blossoms —

though fewer than they were —

 that suffocate the night

  with sweetness.

 The mangoes ripen and fall,

tearing the silence,

  as my heart is torn

by thoughts of Tongareva.


 Fear arises in me,

naked and sheer

  as Maungatea Bluff,

that I will die here

 in Takuvaine,

unattended by my ancestors,

and never more lay eyes

 on sacred Nahe or Paniko,

swirling with seabirds,

 the black terns

  and the white —

 never to see again

the young boys laugh and shout

as they dive among the sharks

    at Omoka,

near my grandfather’s tomb

 where our children lie.


By Alistair Te Ariki Campbell