They come to farewell us
before the lonely trek to Reinga
carried by the wings of the little owl
calling us to tangi with them
before the long night
hides us one from another
before we put on the mourning
leaves of the kawakawa
before the whanau gather
to share in our grief
Whanau is the Maori word for family, and the Maori believe that the spirits of the dead travel to Cape Reinga on their way to Hawaiki. Tangi is the Maori grieving process.
Maureen Sudlow is a member of the New Zealand Poetry Society, and lives in the Kaipara, in the North of New Zealand. She loves poetry, photography and writing for children. She has published a children’s picture book Fearless Fred and the Dragon and has written for various on-line journals and magazines.