Writer and activist Anahera Gildea (Ngāti Raukawa-ki-te-Tonga) wrote this poem for our Notes on Self-Isolation series. It’s entitled 'He waka eke noa on the news feed'.

The wind from kurawaka is not calm

news formed and reformed in the red soil of story

leeches beneath the prophetic hem of the land, rocks,

viral tourists who want to peer into the marrow of place

and place between their teeth, suckle you

hungry ghosts force me

to look through thin grey apparitions

he momo ārai across a window of dim

knowledge, light, silence

animals no longer whining, raising tails,

the deep gulled bird on the line has given in,

the dead of your imagination


are not the same as tīpuna

here for centuries, my kuia 

steps onto the mahau, your kēhua insatiable

for ancestor kōrero,

her feet bare, her feet modern, feet 

in jandals so bright and blue 

she is aloft on the precipice of the sky

to whakamārama, to whakamā,

ngā kupu whakairo made plain -

these faces were carved in isolation


already dystopia

house after house, the wood held,

shifted by the fencelines of public

works to realign the stories of the universe

the pou of Uāwhaki still stand

etched sideways

harakeke unkempt, unwoven


words hei pare 

he waka eke noa

free classes and courses -

the predictable tinsel of privilege,


entry points and portals

that wear our korowai, the pelt of the other,

take on its hue and feed 

on the bright red plummage


grown into lichen on the concrete fence our koroua put in

rows dug into the flesh of Papa, a hard line

border to taste the dirt and dust 

of those speeding to get to the mouth -

the eels are running -

I am running, and my koroua’s fists are cramped

searching for me because

the dead are hungry

and he cannot pay the bill


again the freezing works are closing again

disproportionate numbers

the machinery of capitalism still pepper-potting, hoping 

to lose us in the cracks of its unventilated cities


my tīpuna matua at their table of age, waiting

handpainted plates on imported tablecloth

they remember the tombs, statutes of childhood

locked down, the doors

the smoke that stung the eyes 

the R and R that took women and children -

the skin of resource


shunted to the edge of what was once 

unable to leave, safely

go out, down the river, peka atu ki te urupā,

reach the stump at the top of Pukeatua 

where the bay has signs of familiar taniwha


suspicion of overseas,

the million faced cannibals

hear the roar from the waka carry

warnings across wave tops,

fleshless in the digital, 

the endless hungry ghosts and their children

their need for good/s

sing-songs of the deep south, appropriate

our maunga, our cousin maunga, 

make video candles from our beacons

lit until flame has rendered their land husk


still between worlds

in the atatū, in te ao wairua,

the warm hand of my Aunty with her toothless grin

holds me back, 

standing close to the lupins

thick flowers snap off, petals of falling lead

poisoning splints the dew,

girl, leave your shoes,

your ancestor limbs are wings -

embellish the canopy of Ranginui

and make a firework of stars –

you can never blend in with the dead dead

their ghosts are eating the clay of the earth

and she is angry.