for Vernice Wineera

Take the roots of my spine and splay them across
Papatūānuku they form anchors that crescent rivers and split
valleys. A poem that leaves the lips. Carved
into Tainui. A waiata passed down through hands manacled in
mistranslation. Take the speckling of my
verbiage and the draft of my stanza and rest it in the violence of a cracked skull.
I can see the jaw move between flarf and sonnet
villanelle and haiku. The schema broken by beats. That fragment from
pentameter rotting Shakespeare in a doze of shiver. Milton made a
larger space in my chest than my tupuna ever did
She wrote words in the dark
that the sun set on fire. I die inside my tradition
broken by the whiteness of a blank
page. Hawaiki on that sea of islands. Calamity of oil. The body of
the first woman moulded from its dirt. Her mana inhabits
my pen to paper and makes a noise without sight. A crooked stick propping
me up from behind. Or pushing me into
a crater of repetition that pulls my gender into pieces. And
atomizes my identity my Aotearoa is a
ghost inside my ribcage. I am stretched to the blood of trees, trying to find
feather fine phrases poking through torn skin. They all shat in a bucket to keep the words clean
my bucket is empty, my mouth is full.

Essa Ranapiri (Ngāti Wehi Wehi/Ngāti Takatāpui/Clan Gunn/Highgate) is a person or some shit / they wrote a book of poems called ransack / it's still in the world / the only time they use they/them pronouns for themselves is in these bios / isn't that funny / thx goes out to their ancestors / who are as big as everything / just wow / just everything.