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Reputedly last of his kind,
quite surely one of the last
not crossbred but (as They said) pure
as pure goes, a Chatham Island Moriori
taken for a slave when a boy, taken
again in some other raiding, passed
from band to band, from place to place
until he washed up on the River.
This was the story, anyway, which is
as may be. He was
very old, he did not belong,
some chunk of totara which lay too long
          in acid swamp.
He was kumara left on the pit’s floor,
          sweetness dried, its hull drawn small.
He was what you found in caves but did not
          mention, travesty gone
beyond human. A tatty topcoat, bowler hat,
blanket which seemed to look your way
without seeing you from the stoop of a hut
at the Pa. A few weak hungers,
he survived. He endured,
already myth, beyond legends of his kind,
a poor fact. But the fact was, and the myth
was, and they endure together.
This is written particularly to you.
Remembering, I shiver again as on that day
taking small comfort from our day as it is.
Editor's note
The Last Moriori : first published in Islands 23 (1978), 10; also in Poetry New Zealand IV 1979), 70, Stories About Wooden Keyboards and Selected Poems; Moriori: early Maori inhabitants of the Chatham Islands (Rekehu), with a   language and culture distinct from Maori; they were decimated by Maori invasion in the mid-nineteenth century; the River is the Northern Wairoa near Dargaville and Te Kopuru, KS'childhood homes
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