“O mighty totara tree, you have fallen to the Axe of Death—Death, the swallower of greenstone jewels. The people lament and mourn. The heavens also made lament, the storms arose, the lightning flashed, and the thunder rolled along the sky. Then too was heard the soft wind of the crying of the earth. The great storm-wind has passed through the forest. The trees are stricken with grief, they cry with pain, they groan for the fall of the tall totara tree. –Maori Lament
Makereta strays into the swamp bordering Lake Ngaroto. Her adventuresome nature lures her far from the village of Ngāti Apakura toward the eel weirs. On the way, she checks the traps set for weka, the swamp hen—nothing. Thank the Mother the eel traps are full. She drops one after another into her woven basket. Dark cleaves sky from treetop. The way home disappears. She will have to find shelter.
Footsore, she rests on a hummock of grass. Strands of her rust-red hair deepen almost to black. Her pale skin reflects the rising moon. The eels writhe—too dry. With a stick she digs a hollow, sets the basket within—water rises. Flute song weaves the misty-night. She stares across the black and blacker plate of oil-slick swamp. Shivering, she recalls tales of the Turehu, moon-light people. Once again, she wonders how she came to have red-hair, pale skin, and green eyes.
When she was young, food was plentiful: ducks, crayfish, eels, and fish. Now, there was so much blight. Rubbing dried mud from her shins, she scours the surroundings for a place to sleep. A fissure between roots of an ancient kahikatea tree gives shelter. As she squeezes into the crevice a spider drops on her shoulder. Stifling a scream, she settles nesting among drier leaves and breathes deep. The swamp echoes with strange sounds.
Father, Mother protect your daughter this night.
Your child hears the flute song and fears.
Whistling frogs sing, insects buzz, possums growl, and then life gasps. Surface water ripples—something rises from the swamp. The mire solidifies into a human-like form and from the trees mist coalesces—Turehu. Makareta’s heart beats in her throat. Nearer and nearer the figures come, Turehu white as ghosts wreathed in spider webs, and—Hine-titama, Dawn Maid. Moths flit about her, glow worm larvae bead her hair and cast a blue sheen to her face. Fairy moss drapes her like a cloak. As she walks from the water, orange-yellow glow worms light her path.
We die child; Earth Mother mourns, Sky Father thunders. Go home little lost Turehu, stop the builders, the cutters, save us. Tane Mahuta, the forest God, sorrows. The Tatora trees can no longer speak by root and their seeds perish for Tui birds sicken.
The Turehu wail. The women touch Makereta, her cheek, her hair. Dawn Maid’s smile is downcast. Turning, she re-enters the swamp. Turehu and the glowing things of night leave with her. Her words hang on the air.
We die little one, so much is lost, Earth Mother mourns…“the people know of the death, and there is nothing greater than death.”
—Deborah Guzzi is a healing facilitator specializing in Japanese Shiatsu and Reiki. She writes for Massage and Aromatherapy Magazines. She travels the world to expand her knowledge of healing and seeking writing inspiration. She has walked the Great Wall of China, seen Nepal (during the civil war), Japan, Egypt (two weeks before ‘The Arab Spring’), Peru, and France during December’s terrorist attacks. Her poetry appears in Magazines: here/there:poetry in the UK, Existere – Journal of Arts and Literature in Canada, Tincture in Australia, Cha:Asian Literary Review, China, Latchkey Tales in New Zealand, Vine Leaves Literary Journal in Greece, and Travel by the Book, Liquid Imagination, Illumen, Sweet Dreams and Night Terrors, Dead Snakes, Literary Hatchet, Silver Blade and others in the USA.