Head red


the earth shook us awake I fainted outside my young son’s door when his high-pitched voice was calling his fear towards me in the darkness the shock of knowing that the earth is not solid beneath our feet I thought it was the one thing I could rely upon that the earth was solid beneath me but then all of a sudden I am awoken being bucked like I was riding an electric bull in a Texan bar only I’m in Ōtautahi and I never knew we had these faults no-one is to blame surely but we recalled seeing the word liquefaction in our house documentation where it talked about potential hazards and the lawyer said that was just a formality that it wasn’t something likely to occur who the hell knew that we had these faults beneath us are they even beneath us or are they in-between are they above are they in us if only we did not build such high brittle buildings they would not have tumbled down so destructively they tried to apply terra nullius but what did they think we were as we had been living here fucking here warring here fishing here hanging up those fish to dry here exploring here cooking here intoning our karakia here bleeding here singing here dying here grieving here for generations upon generations so the whakapapa says so we say so how could they conceive of a right to land that was supposedly unoccupied they need their head read as my dad would say only when I heard him say that I thought he was saying: “they need their head red”.

Pōua’s oriori


Pōua’s oriori says
do not come in the eighth month
               Koi i te rā o te Waru

Pōua’s oriori says
do come in the eighth month
               Nāhaku e whakaputa nei
from where you do you come, e Tama?
from the ripened womb?
               Kai te hūareare i puta
open, clear of obstruction
projecting out, mucous-lined
               Te Wahine a Mākū
               moonstruck son of spittle
and phlegm releasing
through the great expanse
               Ka puta a Tamanuiterā
You must follow the order of things, e Tama
               Ia Te Moretū
               Ia Te Moremau
               Ia Te Moretaketake 

Pōua’s oriori says
do not come in the time of Mākū
that wet cold world
congealer of lung
no air will enter
no song
no chant 

Look for the post in the far off
look for tiny eyes of ancestors
               Tō tipuna āhua tōrikiriki
cast away to Pōrakahau
where all of the pou
align like the tide
eyes watching
from the sky 

               Ko Te Aotūroa
               Ko Te Aomārama
               Te tai ka whati 

The tide breaks
see the glint in the brine
they come for you, e tama
a shimmering silvery-blue
in otherwordly

               We sleep when we’re tired
               We eat when we’re hungry
               We are born when
               & moontide

Note from the author: ‘Pōua’s oriori’ includes selected lyrics from an oriori called ‘E Tama’ supplied by my pōua Teone Taare Tikao, to Herries Beattie in 1920.


Ariana Tikao (Kāi Tahu) is an artist of the sound and word variety, whose first book Mokorua was published by AUP in November 2022. She was awarded as a New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate in 2020 and is a recipient of the Ursula Bethell/Creative New Zealand Residency at the University of Canterbury for 2023.