IN PLACE /WHERE/ WE(MANY) STAND

Xander Stronach

English is merely functional; it will not do.

(it must)

Remember this.

My grandpa told a story of Earth(=dead) — he spoke his own tongue, and the teacher beat him. They did it for his own good, they said: to civilize him. Nobody would hire a little brown boy who refused to speak English. Nobody would hire a little brown boy who was loud, and refused to do as he was told.

My grandpa died in an earthquake. Ten seconds before it hit, he started shouting that the Earth(=dead) was coming to eat him. He said the Earth(=dead) was broken — an endless field of open wounds. We(two) tried to calm him, then the teacups began to rattle. It was only a small one, but his heart couldn't take it. He slumped in his chair, and the room was — in a moment — a little more empty. We(family) didn't talk about it at the funeral. His will demanded he be cremated: come the day the Holiest calls, I'd rather be lost to the wind.

Remember this.

Earth (you'll forgive me for speaking plainly) is a funny word; it means dirt; soil; a place in which things grow. Earth(=sacred). We(many) have earth here, though no Earth(=dead). When there is no earth, there is no food; where there is no food, there is no life. Sounds a bit sappy — like you'd see posted online over a grainy picture of a forest — until you look back into ugly memory: back to the days when the Earth(=dead) opened up, and ate mankind bite-by-bite.

Forgive me, I forgot to say —

My river is New-Wairau; my mountain is red, and has no name. My father is Rewi, from Kaikoura(=gone), of the tribe of Kāi Tahu. My mother's name got lost on Earth(=d), though we(family) love her no less.

There's a word in grandpa's language — a word which was almost lost to Earth(=d).

Turangawaewae

Turangawaewae means the place where I stand; where the ground is firm; where I am tall; where my tribe and I belong.

At sunrise, this new earth spreads out before, painted in broad strokes of pink and gold. The colony ship is gone — taken apart and recycled piece-by-piece into buildings, pipes, generators. The ship burned up the landing site when it came down. We(many) rattled this new earth(=teacup, =unbroken) and scorched the grass away. It did not grow back for some time, but it did in time, grow back.

We(many)(=few). We(many)(=te kaitiaki) of this new earth; the guardian, steward, keeper. If we(many) were many, it would shatter like Earth(=d); if we(many) are many, we must attend(role: steward).

The Earth(=d) ate my grandpa bit-by-bit. It ate his language first; it ate his body last. Everything in between was a matter of degrees. By the end, his feet had nowhere to stand.

English is merely functional; it will not do.

I do not know my grandfather's words, so it must.