Robyn Restieaux – Walking backwards

Restieaux LE Aotearoa NZ P&W April 2023

Download PDF Here 
Live Encounters Aotearoa New Zealand Poets & Writers April 2023

Walking backwards, poems by Robyn Restieaux

Bad joke at a Hura Kohatu

with great respect to Apirana Taylor

A small white fence and crisp
white shirts
gold Rolex Pakeha

Aucklanders by the Urupa
up for the day with their
two metre stare with their grim set mouths
they hope proclaim belonging

Francina and her whanau are a looseness
jovial in between whaikorero
kids shuffled from hand to hip
from mama to koka while Stephie

hands Dad in his shiny box to the Rangatira
and though she is family, slides back
to her Pakeha in the back
eyes others for the sign of a crack
until her mask lifts in the gale of a joke
about Dad’s beautiful hair

‘You wait till youz fellas see my bush!
You’d get lost in there’

Urupa: Maori cemetery
Hura Kohatu: a ceremony at the graveside to unveil the headstone
Pakeha: New Zealand European
Whanau: family group
Whaikorero: formal speech spoken by a male with recognised standing
Rangatira: hereditary Māori leaders of a community

Walking backwards

at the gate you are a haunting

the Time you flew to Nelson
two days in and you planned a return to safety
premature but I saw the way you began
to sniff the breeze
ears now listening
for distance

the Time you were presented in the Brisbane heat
to your girlfriend’s Mum both of us like bookends
Mother-spanning the Tasman
thinking we held you upright and intact
really we pressed you beyond endurance
packing you in
silence and camphor

that Time you walked
backwards for as long as
stability permitted
into tomorrow
apology creased and turning at the last minute
disappeared into migrancy
doorway now a tidy concrete
passport booths
rendering you invisible

action completed in the past

Time you returned
duration of your stay a clock ticking down
suitcase liminal space
between what I know –
Auckland Spring and
that Other
your new closed circuit
my own kind of Silence
my own camphor grey

Christmas reunion and you
plan your exodus
Next week encircles every Now
my new kitchen calendar
upcomings glitter stickered
stored last year in a drawer

I’m learning the art of preservation –
flowers in a press
hoping to smell summer
in their desiccation.

© Robyn Restieaux

Robyn Restieaux is a poet based in Tamaki Makaurau. She has happily moved from teaching literature to writing it. Her work was most recently published in the Poetry Aotearoa Yearbook 2023: Afterburn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.