At the museum on Puek-ahu
He waiata mō ngā taonga

It was too special an occasion
For anonymity.
Nothing less
Than a public show of origin and identity
Belonging and commitment
Would do
For the job to be done:
The lifting of a tapu
The launching of a new taonga
‘Ngā Tāngata Taumata Rau’
Into the world of books


The tohunga led
The tāngata whenua
From foyer to echoing hall
Pākehā present to Māori past
One kind of knowing and feeling
To another way of being.

We laid down
Our personal taonga
Of individuality
As koha on the marae
And made the perilous passage
From one world to another
Diminished and dependent
On a strength
Other than our own

Becoming no more than
A likeness to a faded photo
The bearer of another’s name
The end of a line
On a whakapapa
A mark on a page
A notch on a stick
A mere speck
Of historical dust.

Our shadows on
The polished floor
Kept us company
Like secret allies
As we moved toward
The whare whakairo
Te Hau-ki-Tūranga
In the great hall
Where Tāwhirimatea
Shattered the air
Around the high dome
Above us

And all the old taonga
Moved restlessly
In their glass-caged sleep
Dreaming of their prime
Of release and being
Taken home —

‘Āwhinatia mai
Arohatia rā’ —

Sharing with us
The painful truth
Of irretrievable loss.