Listen to the moon, young people.

 She talks to the fish,

  she talks to the sperm

the salmon of the body.

 The moon knows better than you

  when to make love,

when to abstain from making love.

 The moon rests her chin

  on the horizon and tells you,

young women, to prepare your nets,

 to get them ready for the night

  of mating that awaits you.

Now the moon rises from the sea,

 streaked with blood,

  and calls to the fish.

And, young men, though you use line

 and hook, don’t expect success

  to be other than testing.

As for you, young women, evade

 the hook, do not yield

  easily, evade the hook.

This is the night most favourable

 for a fine catch, so get up,

  young girls, and shake

the dreams out of your hair, float

 your bodies on the incoming tide

  and open your legs, face

the moon boldly. I say, open

 your nets for the fish to enter.

  The fish know where to go.

They evade the hooks, swimming

 in wide circles — the night fish,

  the fish that know the depths

and rise to the moon’s exultation,

 following the singing to its source

  to die in the eclipse.

The moon will then withdraw,

 and the tide, too, will withdraw

  through rents in the reef.

Beware, then, of the stone fish

 skulking in the shallows.

  One false step, young women,

and you will lose all the fish

 you gathered in your nets.

  Let the young men withdraw,

but not too soon, leaving you scarred.

 Let them try once more

  for a bigger and better prize.

Just as Maui broke his nose

 with his fist, baited his hook

  with his blood, and raised

Tongareva from the depths,

 so, young men, do likewise,

  and the fish will return,

shimmering in their thousands —

 the big fish, the small fish,

  the fish with gaping mouths

that lie in the reef channels.

 Young women, young girls,

  the trap-pockets in your nets

will not be strong enough

 to hold the swarming fish —

  the mesh will give way

and the fish will escape.

 And so learn to draw

  the string that closes the net —

and be contented with your catch.

 The retreating tide will hum

  its tune of contentment,

swirling out between your toes.

 So be contented with your catch.

  If you wake too soon,

before the fish have spawned,

 acknowledge your failure —

  you are not disgraced.

It’s necessary to be humble

 if you wish to succeed

  in your final attempt.

If you fail again, young girls,

 the moon will die within you,

  and yours will be the shallows

the turtles never revisit.

 So try again, exercising

  the utmost patience as the moon,

singing through its quarters,

 comes back renewed.

  And don’t be afraid when joy

goes rushing through your veins

 tearing new rents

  in the reef, but believe

in your good fortune that you

 may never again experience.

  This time take up a net

as delicate as it is strong,

 and make sure as before

  the mouth faces the shallows,

for then the fish will spawn

 and as they seek to escape

  to the open sea, trap them

in the net and close the mouth.

 You may despise your men

  with their crude line and hook,

but you may need their hands

 to hold the net steady.

  Afterwards, if no longer useful,

you can always eat them.

 But above all, young women,

  be patient, for if you close

your net too soon, you may lose

 your catch, and the moon

  that presided over your birth

will set on your dreams,

 and you will know the bitterness

  of having lost Tongareva.


By Alistair Te Ariki Campbell