The Flying Lesson

As Dad is out of town 
you take us to the Public Health Hui. 
Awake in the meeting house 
our exhalation is the inhalation 
of another. In the half-light 
you read me the plaited roof, 
the myth of Rangi and Papa – 
of his tears and her mist. 
In the morning everyone argues. 
The word smear is banned. 
I sit near Raymond who has 
dark skin and long hair. 
My sister asks him Are you a girl? 
while we play poi on the lawn. 
When a seagull lands he hunkers down 
and offers a torn sandwich, 
as the orange beak lunges, we hoot– 
helicopter pois up over our heads. 


On the second day the hall pours 
and cracks thunder. It draws from 
the greased sky, the spotted marsh 
and all the parts in between. 
A woman, her face as smooth 
as a piece of pounamu 
says There can be no compromise. 
Standing in your garden jeans and a T-shirt 
that spells Ouray on the front in cats, 
you tell them of your sister and mother 
who both survived cancer. 
I listen in the wings, soar around the marae. 


Sarah Barnett is a heritage professional and poet who lives in Wellington. Her poems have appeared in The Press, CatalystTakahe and on the e-zine Blackmail Press. During 2006 she completed the MA in Creative Writing at the IIML.