song for Hone Tuwhare etc

I missed writing for the new millennium
so for you, Hone Tuwhare, I thought I’d write now.
one of many who will dust fresh pages with words.
tonight, with compassion, humour & grace
you walked the stage of our polytech theatre
on your sentimental journey to the North.
they called you from Kaka Point, in the South
to the place of your birth:

aaaaaa‘Send back his stubby limbs!
aaaaaaSend back his bursting tinana fat with kutai,
aaaaaaKina, fish-heads, salt and words.
aaaaaaNgapuhi! Go and get our boy!’

while I share these Northland hills with you,
your presence alone was not enough to cloud these eyes.
what did, was seeing a man who lived life
full & vital, gentle & vulnerable,
who, at 79, read a poem for a socialist friend, a comrade.
the word, like many of the lines rolled
from your full crooked lips, was full of sincerity.
it still comes hard to me, as if others’ laughter
would burst unwanted from my mouth.
to see that fire burning, that home shared,
this is what I take from your journey north.
one day I hope to sing out ‘comrade’ to the tune
of a jazz standard (a favourite of yours)
& for people to hear it true & sing it back to me.

Thank you to Glen Colquhoun for the use of lines from his poem, 'An invitation for Hone Tuwhare to attend a poetry reading in Northland, or a Haka to Kaka Point', published in the New Zealand Listener, 2002.