James K. Baxter: ‘He Waiata o Hemi’

He Waiata o Hemi

I came to Hiruharama
With a leather coat;
Now the coat is cloth
but the cuffs are still leather.

Kua timata te mahi –
The work has begun.
There are beans growing
And Karl planted them;
There are pumpkins growing
And Heto dug the ground;
There are eels in the pot
And Peter caught them – Yes,
Kua timata te mahi–
The work has begun.

Ka whakaiti taku mana,
Ka whakanui te aroha –
As I shrink down to death
The love will grow greater.
The old kumara has to rot
For the young ones to get life –
When the hangi is ready
They dig them out of the ground,
The young ones red and strong,
but the old one is pulpy –
They throw him over the fence
With mildew round his neck.

He parapara iti,
The little seed in the ground
The all-but-nothing thing –
The soul that sleeps naked
In the arms of Te Atua –
No good at all if the seed
Was wrapped in cellophane.

Because our God is dark
The blindness does not matter –
Because our God is silent
The deaf man gets no blame.

What can I do in the morning?
I can put on my coat;
I can make a cup of coffee;
And light a cigarette;
I can kneel down like a camel
On the grass beside the fence;
I can eat and walk and sleep;
I can pray for those I love –
Ko te aroha, i te Ariki –
When we love, it is the Lord –
And this dead man is permitted
To give with empty hands.

When we share our fags and blankets
Christ begins to shine –
Our flesh becomes the bread;
Our blood becomes the wine –
I am cowshit in the garden
So that the crops can grow –
Ko Ihu taku wai,
The Lord is my drink –
Ko Ihu taku kai,
The Lord is my food –
Ko Ihu taku moni,
The lord is my bank account –
Ko Ihu taku mana,
The Lord is my good name –
Ko Ihu taku aroha,
The Lord is my heart –
Ko Ihu taku mate,
The Lord is my death pain.

To be a dead goat
That the flies gather on –
The sun in his mercy
Can make the teeth shine.
Even our sins are His
Let the new pain begin.

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