Amine, Amine*


The Pākehā created demand
For preserved heads;
They became fed up with the shortness
          of days.
Cannibalism was prevalent
In those Roaring Forties:
Aake aake, amine.

When our little night-dweller hatches,
It ignores its mother;
Cold can be dangerous,
          If leading to hypothermia
Grab the mandible and pull gently upward,
And use normal precautions around
Aake aake aake, amine.

The Nothingness, the Great Night,
the Intensely Dark Night,
O, God of uncultivated food,
Wrap him in your hair and toss him overboard—
He will take the shapes of birds;
The early mists are melancholy sighs,
Aake aake, amine.

A trip to the supermarket yields
          White bread;
The bush is most impenetrable.
Glowworms that shine brightest
          Are hungriest:
The adult insect does not live long,
Having no mouth;
Aake aake aake, amine.

Land of the long, white cloud—
Geysers, mud pools, dendroglyphs—
The loud sounds are eruptions.
Orientation toward a cash economy
Is not traditional;
Let us go out of sight of land,
And when we have quite lost sight of it,
Then let the anchor be dropped:
Aake aake, amine.

Do you come on the waves of the winds?
Catch the sun with a noose,
Carve fjords in the highlands,
Some unfinished.
Avalanches, earthquakes,
          Floods, droughts,
Aake aake aake, amine.

Obstacles in your way are voices on the water
By light cometh wisdom
After you have set me afloat
          Make your way to the ridges
You have ascended the pinnacle of misfortune,
The longstanding world, the everlasting world.
Old elements are discarded.
Aake aake, amine.

The act of pressing noses has two meanings
Big waves will come up,
The weather will be overcast,
          The fish very timid,
The moon is losing its brightness;
Paddle the canoe to the mooring place
The place of leaping,
Aake aake aake, amine.

*Source: The Lonely Planet Guide to New Zealand; Myths & Legends of the Māori, by Queenie Rikihana Hyland; Tikanga Whakaaro: Key Concepts in Māori Culture, by Cleve Barlow.



Rick Moody is the author most recently of a collection of stories, Demonology, and a nonfiction book, The Black Veil. He writes:

‘In May 2003, I travelled to New Zealand for my honeymoon, first to Auckland, and then to Christchurch and environs. The trip was a life changer, for me, not only because of the incredible natural beauty of the islands, but also for the creative tension between European and Polynesian cultures that I found there. The high points of the journey included learning about rugby in general and the All Blacks in particular, seeing the Southern Alps, the coast of the Tasman Sea on the North Island, the countryside (everywhere, all the time), the islands in the harbour near Auckland, the call of the bird named the tui, and the Maori translation of the Lord’s Prayer (recited by Europeans and Maori alike at an Anglican church service I attended). The text of this prayer serves as the starting point and the chorus for my poem, which is a process-oriented assemblage, with only minor editorial jiggering, of several travel books on New Zealand, a book about Maori language and culture, and a few words of my own.’