A sea’s venomous black specks hissed,
A forest’s pine needles plucked from the earth,
A wiry strand of black seaweed roped from the underbelly of the sea.
Harmony, they say.
Recklessness, I say.
Fished from the rivers of the west, dug from the chestnut sludge and wrenched from the guts.
Sunk through rough fingers, whisper-kissed to protect and for what?
To be tossed around and lost in the hordes of coats that envelope Narnia?
With disrespect would it lay, battered, tattered in a pyramid of gold and green?
To be spoken about in hushed voices and left out to rot?
Though to me it would not,
A green speckled medal would lie atop a heartbeat.
A moss stone displayed on a pedestal.
And it is worn because I carry not a shred of embarrassment.
There is not one single ounce in my overjoyed body that is ashamed to adorn this pounamu.
New beginnings, they say.
A past to remember, I say.
A pounamu is the Maori word for greenstone.
The harmony and new beginnings are two of the meanings for my specific greenstone (the koru)
This poem was highly commended for Poetry Object 2018
‘Pounamu Poem’ has an incredible energy, and close attention is paid throughout to sound. Phrases like ‘dug from the chestnut sludge’, ‘A sea’s venomous black specks hissed’ and ‘tossed around and lost’—with their marked repetition of vowel and consonant sounds—give the piece an incantatory quality, as of a spell being cast.
The object of the poem—the pounamu—becomes a portal through which to access shifting landscapes of geography and history, which rise seemingly to be reclaimed and reckoned with. Natural forces are summoned and harnessed, and the speaking ‘I’ gives voice to a thrilling sense of defiance and resistance.
~ Bella Li, Judge, Poetry Object 2018
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