Two Poems

dream futures from a plant placed beneath your tongue

 

skin

she crossed the ocean, held buoyant by the surface swell
shed her skin in each new land she came to
folded it neatly
into a locked chest
(or had it taken from her)

without her skin she could not go back to the sea

she left her words in the old land
tucked away the sruthán, the sionainn, the tír-dhá-ghlas
into hills and riverbeds

she grew accustomed to her new form
learned to exchange salt for soil, built instead

upon another’s ocean of grass, her brine beginnings
passed on through memory
and then myth

 

 

 

she crossed the haaf, shaipit by the waves
shed her skin upon the draa
and folded it neatly
into a locked kist

without her skin she could not go back to the sea

she grew accustomed to her new form
learned to exchange salt for soil, built instead
upon the body of a mountain
her brine beginnings buried in the earth

she locked her words away too
dialect smoothed like seaglass
into new vowel shapes
the shoormal, the skröf, the lönabrak
forgotten

 

 

 

she crossed the moana, motu to motu
i tīhore ia i tōna kahu kekeno
and stepped onto the shore
her kākahu kept close for safekeeping

she grew accustomed to her new form,
and held in an embrace between maunga and moana
she put down roots

until she was stolen away, and stolen again
and her words were stolen, too
kupu crushed like gravel into new consonants
the takutai moana, the paringa
(and her kākahu)
taken from her

without her skin she could not go back to the sea

 

 

 

but see, here is where her stories come together into one
selkie stories, seal songs, kekeno calls
for though they all shift in the how-where-why of it
and who was the betrayer and who the betrayed

in every telling I’ve ever heard

           every time
           every time
           every time

the story always ends
with her returning to the sea

 

 

notes

An earlier/different form of dream futures from a plant placed beneath your tongue was first published in Tupuranga Issue Lua: A Whole New World, as part of lyric essay/longform poem untangling the aho.

About the author
Arielle Walker (Taranaki, Ngāruahine, Ngā Puhi, Pākehā) is a Tāmaki Makaurau-based contemporary artist, writer and maker. Having just completed a Master of Visual Arts at AUT University, her practice seeks pathways towards reciprocal belonging through the intersections and connections between land, language, and craft, focusing on tactile storytelling and ancestral narratives.