Settlement (WAI 27)

I got drunk
the first time
in my life
on settlement night
after the speeches
the heavy talk
and waiata
was finished in Parliament
after the stilted susurrus
when it became
to say Kaitahutaka

At The Boulcott’s Farm Stockade Memorial

you should have seen us
much before you arrived
much before your lock-
boxes thumped the stone-beach
much before your crinoline-
ladies hung out hand-washing
much before the half-crowning
of your standing houses
much before the clang of belts
and clips and button-flaps
much before the time when
we fought in the unrelenting lush
much before you asked
us to side against our kin
much before your promises of protection
by Queen and Empire
much before your thin-lipped double-
talk raced our minds

the king of bravo

it’s true
at some stage
you want to go ashore
and for a few seasons now
i’ve been tossing about a farthing
after standing and shaping on a clinker-built
sixareen and heaving as hard as my hand threw
a harpoon to puncture the creamy blubber
fevered in part that the rope would stop
and the coiled mass about my feet
be ample and exact to draw me
to the bitten bush-line shore
native learned and lived
i’m the king
of bravo


We arrived mid-night dead at railway stations
On the last daily train to no welcome
Or fanfare but to darkness and cruel cold
Some nights we had to shuffle and sleep
On benches at the railway station
Until we were met in the morning
After everyone had finished breakfast
Then to us as an after-thought
And off to our billet homes
Often they were kind and simple
But time after time had little to offer
A hot mid-day plate of food
On a match day and that was it
They always enquired about our club-footed
War dance that ribbed crowds pink
It was so frosty and cold some afternoons
It was good to be hopping around before a match
Some of us played three full matches a week in wet gear
There wasn’t time or place or thought
To wash and dry playing jerseys
So they stayed wet and heavy
Our experience of the black jersey
Zoo ornaments up and down the mother-country
Up and down the playing-paddock

Fort Taiaroa 1885

[A mudded footpath meeting; mid morning]
‘They’re ashore,’ Juliette said,
‘And kidnapped the mayor,
And taken locker-lots of gold’
‘Hulking God-less Russian marines
Ashore in Auckland; an iron-
Clad war-ship harbour-moored’
‘How will we protect the
Women and girls? My God, how
They will be daubed and defiled’
‘Russians are merciless beasts;
Known for rape, and murder, and
Pillage; God bless our poor nation.’


Albert Handel
so they say
was married and wanted
over two hemispheres
his name plugged
and plastered
on station boards
for immediate arrest
as an intermediary
as an in-betweener
as an in-shore confidant
his new-found mahi
delicate and deliberate
made by marrying high
brought as manuhiri
an uncoded mana

SILNA 1906

the crown we deduce
is a heavy sleeper
the times we spat
nos tables de cuisine vides!
& how we grew to become
patient with petitions
& saw committees convened
to hear long lists of angular grievances
& at an eye-blink the crown woke
to a quaking queue of on-lookers
& used God-given powers
to legislate & bind us
& so our children’s children
prepared to inherit
their multiple-owned land-
locked dreg-whenua

Morning Scene

Setting: Gooriwal. A cut tree stump. The winter of 1814.
A: You’ve never been to sea? Seen past the horizon?
B: No, not us.
A: How could that be?
B: Gubba arrived. Brought the world to us. Over us.
A: Oh

C.A.J. Williams is a Ngāi Tahu poet. He was born in the port village of Bluff. He took degrees from Massey University and the University of Otago. His first poetry collection 35 Short Poems appeared in 2016. These poems are taken from his second collection 50 Historical Footnotes, due to appear in 2019. He lives in Wellington.

Aukaha is a regular feature that celebrates the creative talent of Ngāi Tahu whānau. If you would like to win a copy of 35 Short Poems, or see your work (prose, poetry or visual arts) published in TE KARAKA, please contact us.

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