In this poem, commissioned by Britomart and entitled In This Place, Wellington-based writer Ruby Solly (Kāi Tahu) – she’s also a music therapist and taonga puoro practitioner who has played with artists including Yo-Yo Ma, Trinity Roots and Whirimako Black – contemplates the solitude of self-isolation.

In This Place

In this place

two women lie in the middle of the street

to feel how cooling tar moulds to the body

without holding it in place

to feel how gently 

the earth curves


In this place all the doors are closed

spirits come and go as they please

last season’s sunflowers

moving to face the heat


A woman steps into a field

she swirls her legs in daylight

when darkness comes

she continues

to breathe deeply


In this place you are alone

your veins full of witnesses

for each note you sing

in the blanket of time

that you tuck over them all


And in this place a child tiptoes on a stool

to help his mother cut fruit

stir sugar warmed through

so he can lick a wooden spoon

and realise that she 

is just a little bit 



Now all my other homes 

don’t tell me I’ve been away too long

they just say I miss you 

the light here 

is just as you remember

when it touches your mountain

snow is spun to gold


And in this place all the wild birds

forget how to mimic their masters

and so again we learn our language 

from feathered siblings

speaking in perfect fifths

major seconds trickle down valleys

evaporating into songs

droplets of liquid silver

falling down on our ears

we learn that this is the same place

that the songs of our grandmothers

were born


And in this place 

a child sits for hours

with crumbs in his hand

waiting for the birds

to take his offering