Tuesday 22 January 2008

My old comrade died - Hone Tuwhare

"I hope when I die the sky is grey" one of New Zealand's best poets once wrote, and as he was laid to rest today it was.


Old Comrade

Like frightened girls, the years
ran in thickening to panic-stations
and the days ran out for Jim
as he walked past them. and beyond

Why, only a few days ago, hatless
immaculately tied and overcoated,
tied on , Jim shouldered his way out
of the Crown into the wind
at the corner of Rattray Street: he
didn't hear me call out. Jim was

Shoulders bunched, tartan scarf whipping
Jim leaned into the wind. The wind leaned
right back and then pulled away. Jim fell.
He didn't feel the hardness or coldness
of the pavement, for, like an old friend
come back, the wind held him as he fell.

Well, there was no magic tolling of the
bell, and the skies never opened up, But
the ground did...
At the graveside, no one wanted to add
or subtract. No one - except the capitalist
who never even looked up from the counting
his worthless paper money. But, you know

I reckon old Marx would make room for him
Lenin, throw another log on the fire,
and, Mao, like a full moon rising poor a bowl
of tea, offer Jim a cigarette. Bet on it

Hone Tuwhare, 85, was buried this afternoon at his mother's urupa (burial place) alongside his three other siblings at Wharepaepae at Kaikohe.

He died in Dunedin last week after a long illness.

Mr Tuwhare won national and international recognition for his work.

His 1964 collection No Ordinary Sun was the first book by a Maori poet published in English.

Tuwhare was buried at his family's Marae, Te Kotahitanga, at 3pm today.

His body had been flown from Dunedin to Auckland on Sunday and was then driven by family to Kaikohe.

Tuwhare's grand niece, Joe Tongotea (nee Rapatini), said more than 400 actors, writers, artists, students and whanau attended the funeral.

Tuwhare had been buried on the peak of the hill at the cemetery – the tranquillity surrounding the area would bring peace to him, she said.

She said the sunshine had always meant so much to Tuwhare and just after he had been buried today the sun had come out.

Mrs Tongotea said Tuwhare had always called everyone "bro".

The common theme that had come out of today's farewell was that he always treated people as equals.

He had received people with open arms – "regardless of their religion, regardless of race, regardless of anything", she said.

Mrs Tongotea said he was certainly a leader, not just a poet.

She said there had been a real mixture of people at the tangi and she said Tuwhare had "managed to bring Pakeha and Maori together as one".

For her the most special moment of the tangi had been the four families from Tuwhare's four siblings all coming together.

She said there had been "speech after speech after speech" and many pieces of his work had been read throughout the day.

After Sir Ed, another great tree has fallen. I will always treasure his poems.


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