A Walk With Your Father
Before you do anything else, check your lungs.
Are they the right size for you, are you the right size for them?
Are they nice and snug against your ribs and spine?
Don’t worry if they’re a bit big for you, you’ll grow into them.
They must be full, however; you don’t want them empty.
You have a long way to go.
Put your hand inside your mouth and make sure
everything’s in its place, check that all the pipes and hoses
leading from your lungs into your mouth are in position and in good nick.
You don’t want any leaks or sudden explosions
this is your air we’re talking about.
Close your mouth securely around this apparatus.
Next check your weight. If you are too heavy
or too light you won’t get anywhere. By the way
there’s no need to take a whole lot of extras with you.
Some people strap expensive knives to their legs and wear protective gloves.
There’s no real need for any of this—an ordinary old sharp knife
from the kitchen drawer will do. And just your bare hands.
You may need to signal to each other.
Now pay some attention to your skin.
It should feel secure and warm
but also allow plenty of room to move freely.
There are any number of colours available nowadays—
they all do pretty much the same job.
Your feet, are they the right size?
If they’re too large you will tire quickly,
too small and you’ll be left behind.
You’re probably looking at feet
about the same size as his.
Your eyes—spit in them.
It keeps everything clear.
That step you’re about to take
will have to be wider than you’re used to.
Don’t forget to move forwards, not backwards.
Keep your hand on your mouth so everything stays in place
when you break the surface.
Mihi to Tangaroa. Mihi to Hinemoana.
Now get in under there,
Do it now, go.
He’ll be right behind you.
From 'mātuhi | needle', Victoria University Press / Perceval Press, 2004
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Read this poem on 'Best New Zealand Poems' 2004