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.

Comments welcome here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.