Mike Subritzky

Mike Subritzky: The SadnessTHE SADNESS

Yo Noel…
Words my friend
cannot express the sadness I feel
for your early death
as I gaze down at your headstone
on a hot houhora afternoon
as we bury our aunty Alice…
Alice the story teller
one of our most distinguished kuia[1].

You should be here with me cousin
celebrating her long and full life…
not lying beneath our land
robbed of health, robbed of years
and just another Vietnam war statistic
of a government that does not care.

Alice, almost a centenarian
and you, barely bloody 60…
there is no justice mate
for all of the years cut short
… and Helen Clark’s[2] apology
… stoic and less than pono[3].

It seems like only yesterday
when the Gunners
returned you to this earth,
on another bright and burning summers day
and the veterans rained tears, tributes
and poppies upon you
as we tangied[4] you home…
to this home.

It is good to be home again tuakana[5]
with the smell of the salt spray
drifting in from the east
and the quietness of this largely forgotten place…
for here amongst the graves of ancestors
and the golden wattle
within the shadow of mount camel
our mountain…
it is we who are tangata whenua[6].

Author’s Note: Early in 2005, I travelled home to the Far North to bury my Aunt, Alice Evans, a noted writer of the Far North. As we walked onto the cemetery I turned to my right and saw the face of my cousin Noel Evans, a Vietnam Veteran etched into a Headstone. Not a bronze military plaque which was to be expected, but a lovingly erected monument, raised by his brother Bill. I was quite moved at the time, and put my feelings down on paper later that same day.