Cold morning. Coarse cheap thermals shadow my skin offering a false sense of reality.
A dark blanket covers the morning sky like an all too familiar haze lingering from the winters night which came before it.
She walks up to me, a familiar face among a group of strangers.
I realise I’m not wearing my ponamu and reach into my bag to get it. I lower it over my head in the same motion as the day it was given to me.
The kuia’s warm breath cuts through the crisp air.
A red kite reaches out to the morning sky.
He stands to speak, words appear to roll off his tongue with such ease but it is all too clear that they have somehow stumbled along the way, tripping up on respect as they leave his lips. Unease. We are quick to defend ourselves. So quick we jump the gun.
We are not like him we tell ourselves.
Over and over again we tell ourselves.
The wind whips past me. I’m taken back to Pikitu. To the fresh air and rolling hills.
Cast in bronze a glorified leader stands, patu in hand.
The warmth of her hand in mine.
Whakaaria mai. Tears roll down my face, memories flood back, bodies in coffins, her voice trembles – a song she knows all too well, a young girl cuddles in to her mother’s shoulder, Whakaaria mai. Flowers. Tea. Biscuits. Awkward pleasantries. The smell of musky perfume wafts through the air. Whakaaria mai.
The rain brings me back. Back to the truths of the bitter morning air. She brings me closer, there is no need for words. Whakaaria Mai.
Sarah Murphy is a writer, artist, storyteller and wander currently based in Hamburg, Germany - although her heart still beats for South Auckland, where she was born and raised.