Things That Happened at Dawn

Turumeke Harrington Ihiraki (quest) (detail) 2022. Watercolour on 100% cotton. Courtesy of the artist and Page Galleries. Photo: Cheska Brown

Turumeke Harrington Ihiraki (quest) (detail) 2022. Watercolour on 100% cotton. Courtesy of the artist and Page Galleries. Photo: Cheska Brown

This new piece of writing was commissioned to accompany Turumeke Harrington: Tātou tātou, nau mai rā, which is on display from 17 December 2022 until 29 January 2023.

  [DUBLIN, 5AM]

I am top and tailing and not-fucking a beautiful eyelashy man who is not my boyfriend. I am struck by how un-sexy he is in his sleep, all farts and feet. No sleep at all. Instead, wondering how long a night can possibly be. Are our stray feet breaking monogamy lore? 5am nausea sets in as I walk to the bus stop. Half-finished housing estates stretch brick and mortar matching far down the road. Ice stills all life. From the grey of my vision comes a Dublin gypsy boy, bareback on a lord-of-the-rings horse. I smoke a ciggie to add my own ephemera to the play. I wonder if I belong here, or out by the shallow port and tussock pier. Bed swirls about me into air and the boy stops. He takes my hand, swings me up, and asks me if I will come and see. The boyfriend in New Zealand is nothing in the face of this authoritarian high lover. But when I show my hand, he turns the horse, fishes a fag out of his Adidas sweats and takes me back to the bus stop. The light shifts to wobbly sun, and children begin to wake. One snuggles in to his mother milkily, warmly and insists she sing the Paw Patrol theme tune at least six times. Another boy pisses on his front lawn in a duffle coat. Some houses are full of pain. Quiet. The children trying to be slippery like currents in the sea. The street recedes through the back bus window, and I begin my journey. A woman in her eighties replaces me at the stop. She smokes into the light, calling on the waifs who exist in the universe slivers outside of time. She knows she knows nothing. I look down. I am nowhere to be seen.

Turumeke Harrington Delightful (ira atua) (detail) 2022. Watercolour on 100% cotton. Courtesy of the artist and Page Galleries. Photo: Cheska Brown

Turumeke Harrington Delightful (ira atua) (detail) 2022. Watercolour on 100% cotton. Courtesy of the artist and Page Galleries. Photo: Cheska Brown

[LYTTELTON, 5AM]

I take the toddler to my tit. 5am and she performs suck-acrobatics. Feet in my face, her hands stroking me in a frankly perverse way. No sleep at all. The dog makes a snort-sigh sound and stretches. Her muzzle is greying and she will only get up for posties or if I put my shoes on and say “Where the fuckity fuck are the fucking keys”. We will rise into the dawn and put the kettle on. The toddler will throw her bowl because she’s tired and I will yell because I’m tired. Our limbic lizard brains firing hot like two tuatara fucking with each other by tapping on the glass. Mimicking the toddlers who have done the same to them. Tomorrow I will be a gentle parent who takes my child’s screams as cries for love and treats them accordingly. I am a web of voices and coincidence and generational repetition of mistakes and triumphs and pain. I cannot possibly tease out all the threads of who I am, let alone of who you are. We are rigged random number generators. Noelle the mother and Alan the father died at 26. The solo parent story is the same, but the melanoma and the motorbike accident are different horrible clashes of happenstance. I love Noelle the daughter but I am tired. Yesterday, I held the dawn suspended in my hands. I let it settle in underneath my flappy breastfeeding titties. I fed the child, warmly, while tuatara were at peace in wildlife preserve cages, slowly, slowly, contemplating fucking. The next generation. I am my mother, I am your mother, I am her mother, I am my own mother. It is very early in the morning.

Turumeke Harrington Rikoriko (Skydancers for Lillian) (detail) 2022. Watercolour on 100% cotton. Courtesy of the artist and Page Galleries. Photo: Cheska Brown

Turumeke Harrington Rikoriko (Skydancers for Lillian) (detail) 2022. Watercolour on 100% cotton. Courtesy of the artist and Page Galleries. Photo: Cheska Brown

[OKAINS BAY, 5AM]

Okains Bay in the caravan with the cow print curtains. A much underrated print, as it is horrendous to the point of unsexiness, while, at the same time, bringing to mind huge, fertile udders. The next generation of limited life-expectancy ruminants. The bedding is polyester fleece, barbed by grass seed and the sand of many unexpectedly full bikini tops. The sea breeze is building to gale, and I wish for foundations. The caravan’s wheels, granted, are part of the land now, but they remember the road and they retain their wanderlust. No sleep at all. The Kmart gazebo strains and I catalogue each peg; try to calculate the odds of each one losing its hold on the ground. They lose their hold on the ground. The whole thing bends in on itself and crashes into the caravan. 5am. Nude. I do battle with the poles and the canopy-billow. I try to hold something unholdable down. Twenty minutes ago, the poles were flimsy and problematically easy to slip apart. Now they are wrought into impossible dreadlocked strength. An evolution, a shedding of its shape that has, for too long, been held to ludicrous human notions of usefulness and servitude. Now it belongs to itself and has its own, gazebo-centric, ten commandments. The object, nature and I find fucked-up synergy in my naked dawn anxiety dance. Metaphor is easy. The gazebo is my inner demons, or else, the collective ills of a callous society. I could also speak to mindfulness, and the feeling of giving all my attention to this one moment, to the straining of my back muscles as the gazebo bucks and refuses like an enormous kingfish being dragged out of the sea. Or a stingray as big as an island, or an entire story. But what I feel is hopeless and afraid. I am no Māui. I manage to shove the mangled thing under the caravan and sound and sense come speeding back. The wind. The wind. The sea. The sea. I walk down through tussock to see a string of shells. Wetly on fire from early sun, and where the tide has been. Closer to the horizon, a whole new memory-place flicks its tail and barrels down for fish. I find a web of voices in a seagull flock; in a rockpool. I look down. I am nowhere to be seen.

Will appear in B.210

18 November 2022

Rebecca Nash

Rebecca Nash is a poet who lives in Lyttelton. She has an MA in Creative Writing from IIML and an MA in Samuel Beckett from the University of Canterbury. Her book for children, Wilbur’s Walk, was published in 2021.