On wearing dignity

Joel Carpenter
Dame Te Atairangikaahu

Today was the funeral for the Māori Queen
Dame Te Atairangikaahu
child of the Kingitanga
all present said she was a woman
of great dignity

Dignity can not be worn
like a feather cloak
hanging off the shoulders
encircling the body
cannot be bought or traded
like land

Sometimes it is lost
like language

Taonga of true beauty
are hard to find
there is a cost in carrying them
to the end

Is one born with dignity
or is it something earned?

One Chief said
She moved among her people
Sustaining her people
With her presence

not a cold hard thing
a mantle of memory
woven together
over many years
each thread a tribute
to humility
and a generous smile

In a lifetime
Te has rebuilt
a forgotten highway
her steep path turns from aggression
and the tools though sharp
have never been clenched
with violence

Peace has its own way
of cutting

Dignity commands your respect
your attention
though it seldom made the news

And now at her death
the news tells us she was a woman
of great dignity

And gradually,
little by little we notice
when she turned the last bend in the river
her wake still spread out in sharp lines
trails for us all to follow

big waka to fill

long way to paddle

Joel Carpenter likes surfing at Lyall Bay, organising poetry evenings and baking bread. He has a fine head of hair.