A House-warming


Scent from open fires can no longer
smoke the lounge in green manuka fug.
Sage bunches burn silver on the grate.

Camphor traces seep from boxes packed
with gifts my mother no longer wants,
such as that smock she used to paint in

when pregnant, her portraits of landscape
where the same pine trees remain. The kā
growing in kāraka kāriki.



It’s by-election day. Buzzwords
are out on signs in country towns
Horeke, Mangamuka, Whirinaki.
The harbour’s still as a milk vat.

My bro and I are the first visitors
for a week and possibly the last,
in the trim rebuilt mission house.
Mary Ann Bumby’s home

is honeycombed with notes –
sister of the Wesleyan minister
she brought two hives of bees
stacked with cinders above

and ice below to keep them alive
on a spending spree in Sydney,
delivered safely to Mangungu.
Trees burst with ripe quinces

and rosehips litter the porch
where three thousand tangata watched
a binding signing of Treaty papers.
Voting on the road, each small tick

skims into a vast blue morning.
Patuone, Heke, Rongo – tamumu
in my ear, tell me your whakaaro about
the sovereignty you did not sign away.


(Skep was previously published in Flash Frontier 2019)


Briar Wood grew up in South Auckland. She lived and worked in Britain publishing poetry, fiction and essays. Her recent collection, Rāwāhi, focuses on returning to Northland, the place of her Te Hikutū ki Hokianga, Ngāpuhi Nui whakapapa. Rāwāhi was shortlisted for the Poetry Award at the 2018 Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.