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a maori in manhattan 1  | Hinemoana Baker

a maori in manhattan 1 | Hinemoana Baker

Ngai Tahu in New York

 We left Aotearoa on Wednesday 22 February, not long after the anniversary of the earthquake which devastated much of Christchurch and its people, and began a year most would rather forget. At 12:51pm, my partner Christine and I listened in meditation as the names of the dead were read on air. As the roll call continued, I began to imagine the alphabet itself as those buildings, falling to this force of nature.I was born in Christchurch. I went to Canterbury University, lived there for a few years. For most of my adult life, though, I have lived in Wellington. The earthquakes in Otautahi took no personal toll on me. I am very grateful for this. But I don’t think this is why I haven’t been able to write anything about that day. My loved ones (in particular my god-daughter and her mum, T) have been deeply affected by it. My brother and his wife. I remember in excruciating detail that day when we were at home, absent-mindedly watching the telly one afternoon over lunch, only to see the TV3 coverage change to those horrifying, dusty scenes in the streets. People running, sobbing, desparate.

Yet I haven’t been able to address any of what happened with written down words. Poetry’s failed me. Perhaps language collapses, along with everything and everyone else. Perhaps I am not the only one who doesn’t know what to say, or how to say it.

There goes M, N, O. The silence after the last ‘Z’ rings with great sadness.

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