This is the story of Rona, a woman who fights constantly with her husband. One night Rona storms out of her whare after the couple fight about who should fill their tahā (water containers). As Rona walks away, cursing her husband, Marama (the moon) watches and listens.
When a cloud passes in front of the moon, Rona stumbles in the dark. She falls, then curses the moon for her fall. Marama tells Rona, ‘Be careful what you say, lest you be made to pay’. But Rona only yells more insults at Marama, who gets so angry that he reaches down, grabs Rona and pulls her up into the sky.
The next day Rona’s husband searches for his wife but cannot find her. He misses Rona and is sorry he treated her badly. Meanwhile, Marama welcomes Rona and treats her with kindness. Rona gets happier and happier. When Marama asks her one day if she would like to return to earth, Rona realises she loves Marama, so says she wants to stay with him. Touched, Marama gives Rona a special taonga (gift) in return— a korowai (cloak), adorned with stars. Rona then becomes the controller of tides, Rona-whakamau-tai.
Slowly I am slipping from your grasp –
Great also, because so many of these taut poems are so well-written — not in a conventional Pākehā sense either, as in abounding with word games, multiple metaphor and proto-post-modern digressional vaguenesses, but in a mōteatea Māori manner: repetitions and word echo-mirrors abound and I can hear them as chants as I pursue them through the text. Especially the demonic mnemonic of Treaty and its Tin of cocoa mantra.
VAUGHAN RAPATAHANA (Te Ātiawa, Ngati Te Whiti teaches English in Hong Kong. His poems, articles and reviews have been widely published, and his poetry collections include China As Kafka (Kilmog Press) and Home, Away and Elsewhere (Proverse Press).