Anchor (for Matiu)
Before you were born, we decided you would be our weapon
Our bullet-proof vest.
That you would speak the language which we could not.
And, by so doing, would right the wrongs
or turn back time
or some other cliché about gently nudging recent ancestors
who loved us by pretending they couldn’t speak it either.
It was unfair: a newborn baby taking a first breath
surrounded by adults wanting to trick you into believing in a taken-for-granted world
which for us remained a fantasy.
Wanting every utterance of yours to be different from our own:
picking up shame from where it has pooled around our feet;
scooping it into buckets, or cups, or bails;
holding it out for you to make it all disappear.
You were our baby in the manger:
the one whose tongue would save us all.
Over time we have come to know that words on the page are unkind to you.
You know so much of two spoken languages
but Maori boys at school are not judged for poetry.
These adults in your life still as hopeless as ever,
waving to you in your world across a thin crack which some days feels like a ditch.
We read earnest articles about the importance of reading.
We quietly panic about gaps at high school and fear that you could slip between them.
We sit in our houses of books and try to find the line
between reading as medicine and reading as punishment.
And then you skype with me late one afternoon to practice your speech
which begins with your pepeha as if that is the most ordinary way to start
when you’re eleven years old.
How could we have guessed that this language would be your weapon
Your bullet-proof vest.