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Air which does not know about corrupting
or the state of the nation breathes you in
to tussock and out to plains statement
running away from the mountains.
Roads which connect one scheme to another
look across a century and a score of years
to the gunfighters’ redoubt,
the last pitched battle.
Te Porere was not well designed:
Te Kooti did not understand his limits.
He was outsmarted, and outgunned.
Thirty-seven were killed, thirty women and kids taken.
Government had four dead, four wounded.
Those are facts of the matter.
Visiting Te Porere you feel unduly exposed.
That you are tested? This may be.
Or disillusioned? On the contrary, it is more
like locating (if only briefly) in a heartland
somewhere continental where memory spreads wider,
talk of romance or pity is irrelevant.
Logically, you realise the scale’s all wrong.
Nonetheless, you could be persuaded.
                                                                      28. 10. 88
Editor's note
Te Porere: first publication; Te Porere, on the upper Wanganui River was site of the ‘last pitched battle’ of the New Zealand Wars between government troops under Colonel McDonnell and Te Kooti; Te Kooti Arikirangi Te Turuki (c.1820 - 1891) was a remarkable Maori leader and the founder of the Ringatu religion; the source of much of the material about To Kooti seems to have been J.C. Andersen and G.C Petersen, The Mair Family (1956); they, in turn, relied on Mair’s Reminiscences, 1923, and accounts from Mair published in various works by James Cowan
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