Poet Laureate’s Choice, August 2021 | Reihana Robinson

Poet Laureate’s choice, August 2021

The Poet Laureate's Choice, August 2021 is a portfolio sequence of new poems from poets chosen by the Poet Laureate. Today three new poems from Reihana Robinson.

use both arms to hold on use your legs to kick *

I am this intuition tradition to the core, I am the sunshine in the song, the intimate
equation, the unfurled sheets, the jealous grace the concentration pure

I am your lifeboat slowly paddling to shore, come dance with me and find your nook, our
time is short and sweet, out here on the mantle we yearn for the core

our toes are sizzling atop the volcano, our lips demand more, each one of us clean, each
born into air, wanting, desiring more year after year and now I am impatient

and am I not an immigrant?

no ship will come, no spirit of vengeance, no rolling back the boulder, no incarnation,
voodoo, no jab to quell each prayer left in disarray, disenfranchise is a word

like flag and flagellate, a stone, a sound, a treatise from life to love to hate, sacrifice is
just a word supposed to bring men to heel, snap march click shoot, parade heroes leave

leave lovers, leave mothers, march to some drum,
yet only machines grind a universal language and the trees remain silent, their growing
unheeded, their bark un-embraced, leaves

coming and going

leaving no trace of what could be possible, were a pathway to be cleared, a radical
departure, a free belvedere propped up in a
clearing, push over bleak nullity stand up and rejoice

the war’s over, the war’s over, the war is over


* Use both arms to hold on use your legs to kick
During 2016 refugees became headline news in the ‘west’ as if these were the first refugees. The survival of those living in refugee camps for generations, amid extreme deprivation, is rarely in the news but suddenly the desperate sea journeys are news and this made me think about how we all desire belonging— somewhere, anywhere, without war. The title is a parent’s cry to their child as they hit the sea.

— Reihana Robinson

Who is not an immigrant?

I am an immigrant, an error of history, a spilled mystery
I span the globe, just like you and you and you, immigrants
with fingerprints and I too pay for floor length curtains

you step aside as if bearing the tide your resentment a storm cloud
your gaze like a razor stripping skin in long strips your nails
dig in, more claws than grips, your hatred is solid it weighs on your

soul, it is too big to handle and deep as a hole
you are definitely going to require employees
you are on the wrong side, could be saving the bees

how fast your glee grew, it cant be genetics or maybe
scientists tweaked genes yet I cant quite pity you
so you stand alone man, on your island of plenty, barely

breathing and wrath leaves you seething—are you listening?
the skin on your nipples, ripple desire oh yeah, turns your belly
to fire, you could light up a town or a city

and give back some joy, some laughter, oh boy
turn your glance turn handsome
turn your glance free


Who is not an immigrant?
In catharsis lies hope, where a realization of futility hits the prideful ambitious, not as punishment but as self-revelation. And how the creation of humans may well have been an aberration in the inventory of the galactic list of things to do. It leaves a skerrick to the imagination to allow something bold and beautiful yet to come. It is, to quote Peter Balakian’s August Diary, “the longing for the native place/between two selves” before the lid closes.

— Reihana Robinson

Ding dong bell oh Maui Maui Maui

Like the boy who put Pussy in the well
the demi-god is chastened for his misdeeds
Mista Sun is livid when he finds
his journey interrupted

Little humans had had to run
so the old ones say, Mista
Sun was moving too damn fast
they were worn out

But hey they weren’t obese
not diabetic
no time to beat
up their babies … wanted to make time for loving

so from a few perspectives they were
going along okay, perhaps a little sleep deprived
and we do know how that can screw you
take a look at Abu Ghraib or Guantanamo, lads

frequent flyer-ed from cell to interview
chamber, no sleep at all and so many secrets
but back in the day when the day is not so long
wahine knot a net to catch the Mista

to bargain with Mista to bring some ideas
to the table—negotiate, placate, ruminate
collective bargaining if you consider
the many elements

I mean who would seriously argue
with an eruptive prominence?
To escape captivity Mista slows right down
and for this bright light idea (one of

those eureka moments) the demi-god
is revered—Maui is the one who tosses the net
and let’s not forget
he did not weave the net but taught

the art and so it is the women who cut
their hair weaving a magical sieve
Mista Sun gets the idea and over time
the days and nights feel right until

little humans prolong the day
light candles, lamps, power up screens
decay the mauri once embraced
flickering light like a tanning machine

closest thing to a campfire
that being a fond memory
something their tīpuna used to light

— Reihana Robinson

Reihana Robinson biography

Following a career in teaching and art education in Wellington, Reihana Robinson threw it all away for a life of homesteading, writing, art and environmental research, and living off grid in the Coromandel.

She was the inaugural recipient of the Te Atairangikaahu Poetry Award and was selected for AUP’s New Poets 3 in 2008.

Reihana has held artist residencies at the East West Center in Hawaii and at the Anderson Center, Minnesota.

Reihana's published poetry books are Aue Rona (Steele Roberts, 2012), a reimagining of the Māori myth of Rona and the moon; and Her Limitless Her (Mākaro Press, 2018). She is also author of The Killing Nation, New Zealand’s State-Sponsored Addiction to Poison 1080 (Off  the Common Books, 2017).

Reihana Robinson. Photo by Ahuwhenua.

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