Crying on the threshold, waiting to step into light, waiting to step into a history of pain. I am at the doorway now. The process of healing hollows me out, a tree preparing to become a waka. Sailing back in time into an ocean of grief and love, back to where I began, back to where we first landed.

I think about swimming at the dam in the sunlight and diving down metre after metre into the dark water, only surfacing when my ears start to hurt. Touching that cold spot near the bottom, reaching for the reeds. How quiet the bush is when I resurface, watching. I feel the grief of my tūpuna today alongside my own grief, clenching my jaw round the clock again, a premonition of migraine.

Halfway between Hawaiki and here, carried softly through the veil, only pain brings me back. I don’t know how to articulate the sacred except with my body. I don’t have a language except the energy in my palms. I come to this holding nothing, I come to this holding the library of the world. In the dark sitting side by side in the car talking, I feel illuminated by you. We say goodbye cheek to cheek, nose to nose. Unkissed. I would have cradled you with soft hands before I left, but you shy away from me. I hold sacred space for you within them. I feel myself leaving, already gone far from everything that was before, everything that never was. I kick off from the far shore of longing and float on my back away from you, from everyone. Longing is gone out of me. I am in the water now, my body ready to surrender to a great wave, waiting for everything I lost to come back to me.


waka (noun) canoe, vehicle, conveyance, spirit medium, medium (of an atua)
tūpuna (noun) ancestors, grandparents.
Hawaiki (location) ancient homeland – the places from which Māori migrated to Aotearoa.


Kathleen McLeod is a Tainui wāhine, anarchist and writer from Aotearoa. Kathleen lives and works on the unceded sovereign lands of the Jagera and Turrbal nations in Ahitereiria. Her work has previously been published in the anthology Chorus by Saul Williams, Banango Street, Three Word Chant, Sunlit and Clouddthroat and Ruru Reads. She was a co-writer on the play Schimchong: Daughter Overboard, which premiered at World Theatre Festival in Meanjin in 2016. Her poetic mythology is concerned with ancestral grief and personal wounding, decolonisation, embodiment, healing and intimacy.