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Identify Yourself They Said
I was born in the wasteland of forests and gods,
on the tail of our fish, near the spirit trail
between tide lines along Ninety Mile Beach
that leads to the place of leaving.
The sea sang my first welcome in heartbeats,
wind keened slow lullabies through ghost trees;
forests of dead kauri whose blood had become
treasure we sought. Dallie, Māori, Pākehā:
We all looked the same covered in mud.
Everyone was family there, close around fires together,
darkness pressing at our backs. Outcasts in an outpost
on the edge of everywhere else, we shared our fate,
our music and our food.
Our songs all sang of going out and coming home,
cycles, circles, spirals, in a language cobbled
from our three cultures.
Tides went and came, went and came.
Pōhutukawa blossoms dropped to slow tangihanga,
waves carried them away.
Today the cave mouth will open,
show me the way home.
Mercedes Webb-Pullman’s poems and stories have appeared in online journals, anthologies, e-books, and print since 2008. After 40 years away she now lives in New Zealand. She misses the fish and chips of childhood, steam rising from a hole torn in the newspaper wrapping, defining Friday nights.