Kiri Piahana Wong


Deep Water Talk

In honour of Hone Tuwhare
For Melinda, Sophie & Nathan

& no-one knows
if your eyes are
blurred red from
the wind, too
much sun, or the
tears streaking your
face that could be
tears or just lines of
dried salt, who
can tell

& you never can tell
if you are seasick,
drunk, or just
hungover — the
symptoms are the

& sea and sky merge
until the horizon is
nothing but an
endless blue line
in every direction,
so that you are sailing,
not on the sea, as you
thought, but in a
perfectly blue, circular
bowl, never leaving
the centre

& you wonder who is
moving, you or
the clouds racing
by the mast-head

& you wonder if
those dark shapes
in the water are
sharks, shadows, or
nothing but old fears
chasing along behind

& the great mass of
land recedes, until
you forget you were
a land-dweller, and
you start feeling the
pull of ancient genes
— in every tide, your
blood sings against
the moon

& food never tasted
so good, or water
so sweet — you’ve
never conserved water
by drinking wine
before — and rum;
and coke; and rum
and coke; and can
after can of cold

& your sleep is
accompanied, not
by the roar of traffic
on the highway,
but by the creaks
and twangs of your
ship as she pitches
and moans through
the dark ocean,
all alone

& you wonder —
where did that bird,
that great gull perching
on the bowsprit,
come from?



Kiri Piahana Wong is a New Zealander of Maori (Ngāti Ranginui), Chinese and Pakeha (English) descent. She lives on Auckland’s North Shore. She is currently compiling her first poetry collection, to be entitled Two Colours. The collection is an exploration of the colours blue and yellow. ‘Deep Water Talk’ is from the “blue” half of the collection. It is one of many poems in “blue” that explore the poet’s relationship with the sea.