Best New Zealand Poems 2001


Elizabeth Smither


Te Whiti and Tohu

On the last morning of his life
Te Whiti fed corn to his pigeons.
Tohu was buried on top of his coffin
smashed in a dozen pieces.

Tohu had his left hand middle finger
shot away by a bullet. Te Whiti’s
right hand middle finger was torn off
by a millstone. They married sisters.

At Tohu’s death a canoe-shaped cloud
with a figure lingered for three days.
Te Whiti spoke of ko manawanui: forbearance
the canoe by which we are to be saved.


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