Across the Face of the Moon
By Rangituhia Hollis
I look up to the moon, and I say inside myself “I used to be afraid of you”. Now I see your beauty up there. I feel your light carry my eyes across the stars. You’re directing me home. And I know that beauty exists, if not here then somewhere. I see a tinge of black across the curve of your brow. You’re not full tonight. I see you’re in profile, turned, looking like you’re talking to a neighbouring star. I hear you whispering. “These words have collapsed the distance between us.” I hear you calling. One soft karanga call landing on empty air. “From here, I watch the earth. Do you watch it too? Or do you have better worlds to gaze on with wonder?”. Maybe in a few million years I’ll be still here to hear that star answer back. Somewhere still standing with you, you still there above and roaring. Well above, at the apex of all things, seeing our flaming sun dim above a dying world. I hope the answer will be “yes, yes I do”.
This speech is the same as this gesture. Which I give you.
A closed hand turned open – a demonstrative greeting.
A movement closer, the same as a movement away, and the same as my not moving. All the same as having thoughts of all of these possibilities at once. & to write this comes from contemplating the feelings that think between all forms.
I woke before the sun. The birds so tired this morning woke outside the house as I went from room to room turning on the lights. Flicked the switch of the jug. Paused for a time, waiting and watching for the bubbles to start to turn upward. The first sip of coffee always tastes bitter. Then a few drinks in, tastes familiar.
There’s the fast fast or the slow slow.
That’s why all the stars are out tonight, to see what’s happening. To see who’s winning time. For them, their time is different to our’s. They were once like us & that’s what they watch for. To connect with the bodies that are like that which they once had. They live the slowest, we burn the brightest.
To us, to me. The slow slow is pushing a hand through a rock pool to find small crabs. Or finding them around the shells of mussels being chucked. The slow slow is the looking for them. Collecting them. Raising eyebrows to the others to say I got another one. Holding a hand full of them. Kneeling down with a pile, talking the talk of fighting them. The slow slow is negotiating the old ones, talking with them, them with the knives, who’re working and laughing around us. The slow slow is never worrying about time and getting caught up listening to stories that put all of them and everyone in a place of memory. We are here because we were there. We are here with that, the song of speaking of the past that sings in familial familiar voices. The slow slow is counting all the crabs and thinking of them in relation to all others.
The fast fast is the fighting of them.
A high whine of air brakes – pick up/drop off. Step on board, with jarring, shifting plate’s tremorring beneath. Each shake resounds as a spectre of Napier’s 1931 earthquake.
You know the driver from the night before. He knows you grew up in a city, built on the rubble of the new world, built on the bodies of the old world. Everyone’s worried that this city might fall again.
We’ll either all be destroyed or all remade – all the same in contemporary artifice.
Some won’t be getting back up.
Some won’t even be looking at what their looking at, long enough to even notice.
After each jolt, we fall back into place. Do we sleep soundly, in each shift of flashing black segue-way?
Look out the window.
We’re moving just fast enough to see that the world is there, then the world is gone. The world is there and gone again.
I thought I was awake.
“The next stop is…” Then I drift out, and away.
Heading north is always packed.
The notification screen’s light glows a green square when I close my eyes.
I have seen the wood rotting on the corner of the house. Windows falling out of their frames when the wind blows. I have seen its future. A house knocked down and a property subdivided.
When I was a child I used to think that by realising the redundancy of a structure that it might collapse with the thought of it as a whole.
Up here in airspace, up, up here. All becomes a blur and indistinguishable.
There’s the click click of a right turning indicator light. “Bus stopping” in it’s red lights – means I’m close to home, I just gotta walk for a bit. So get on up. Grab the rail. “Oh this aint my stop” we’re still moving. I ease back into the seat.
“E Tama, Katia te kūaha!” Shut out the bad things and let us be. In here that world can’t touch us. This is ours. They stay out, cos they can’t with all their power, see inside. And that goes for you too, they can’t see inside you either.
Dad upon your father’s deathbed, I said “Poor poor Papa”. And then I’m gone from his story. And it was only that memory that stuck. That one story I was told of him and I.
By the clothesline. By the trampoline. With feet in jandals, in awe of the return of the day.
A korowai of clouds wrapped across Manurewa. Down Weymouth, past Clendon. All the way back up to Alfriston.
The stalks of feathers touched the waters of the ocean. They curved and were planted. All pushed back past all the commercial stores, all way back to Takanini. To be somewhere planted in the ground. Somewhere past the horizon that the suburbs can’t see.
There was a time when I saw a dream of this place in the eyes of those who were losing everything. And then they’re/we’re still going. I caught my eyes too, in the reflection of a storefronts glass walking into South Mall.
If you ask questions that scrape the surface of the sky – do you get answers in the stars that are quiet or the rain that touches your skin?
When all the planes were gone, did we content ourselves with making this place real? And I wonder did we find out that the problem was the sky or the earth?
When the problems always been tethered to people.
I wonder if like me, if the people here have ever seen the moon following them? If they’ve ever seen that big yellow moon? The one that my cousin and I drove with. The one that can cover the whole of the coast. The one that follows your van. The one that when you’ve reached the highest point and are finally over the range, and the car starts to dip. That for a small part of your journey – the whole world flips – and the moon, for a time looks like it sits beneath you, and you’re descending onto it.
I see the stars and planets have shifted around you. They have risen up above you, and you Marama, of two possible origins, well you’re looking down tonight. Out over there is the coast. Not quite east east, but maybe to that place where I have been, that place where I was the only one who saw a whale on the surface of the water. And turned to the others to see if they saw too. They didn’t. I was the only one who heard that whale speak. I won’t tell you what he said, but that was where I was where I rode with evil. And later lay in a house of evil. Marama are you remembering it too? Or are you caught up in the halo you have round you, dreaming in the clouds that have you in a glow. Then the sudden light from a neighbours house below. I think they are waiting for one of theirs. Their porch light is as equal as a star tonight. If I wait maybe i’ll figure out why they turned it on. I wait. The light turns off. For a moment the ground beneath my feet was a close constellation. And earthly concerns returned to me. Do I spend too much time trying to escape to the stars? I’ll wait for you. One day you’ll speak to me as well.
I stood outside. Pulling a smoke from a fast emptying pack. I tapped my pockets, found a light, gave it a spark and took a breath. On a path soaked with mud, my shoes barely on and body shaking. I looked up. Up there and all across what was left visible of the sky from behind that big tree, clouds rolled over. Directly above me, high up, I could see hovering – was the god. Hovering like a humming bird. The being, visible in pink, blue and white light. Its body illuminated as its arms reached out, pulling at the night.
I stood there watching as all the stars were being cleared from the sky.
I stood there with you. I think it was you who showed me how to get there. We walked the long grasses, created life to inhabit the world. And looked out across nebulae. Then we were as far away from the place we are now. As far as we possibly could be.
During the time before the night was day. I tried to save you. Tried to find you. What was taken I purified. Made it only able to do good. You’d become one of them, and I guess you always were. Those who took it became sick, and fell from the sky. I saw the grimace of one, as he dropped. I knew the only way to save him was to stay. To take it back from him. He was one who began the war, so instead I drove. I headed south. Ki te taha tonga o te motu. I left you in the midst of that battle. As the gods looked down in orbit around the earth. Youse tried to become the gods. For a time each of you were gods. You fought and tricked each other to get a small piece of that power. But you made too much mischief here and out across space. Each one of you became sick and so I returned. I waited, and only came back after I thought he was dead.
I bit the moon in two.
I just been outside watching the red, red and green of a helicopter flying above. In those slow circles that they make. Wondering where their centre is tonight, and who is trying to escape. Anyway they’re – the both of them – somewhere down the road tonight. Maybe on the other side of great south road. But it’s a big circle. Manurewa, Manukau, Takanini and probably that Hill road onramp. But the circle’s moving, maybe it’s centre is parallel to browns road? Maybe it’s that other road from the turn at the BP? I think that it’s sound and light is getting nearer and more prolonged. I can’t sleep cos of it.
When that copter nears I don’t think much, until it circles out those other ways, outa sight and earshot. I get to look up where I was looking anyway. To see a south east star getting higher. I get to looking that way in the in between. At a point that was just a blip above the clothesline a few hours ago and now is the brightest star. I walk the small concrete path that points south. And it’s the brightest star – up, up and left. Maybe it matters cos I got whanau coming. Maybe lightning strikes cleared the way. Maybe those strikes and thunder claps are what reminded me about looking to the sky and to the night – I’m thinking of Purapurawhetu.
While I’m drawing I can hear Annabelle in the next room. She’s reading to Tū Tonu. I sorta can’t hear what’s she’s saying, and I can’t sorta hear his questions. The sound is sorta muffled. The washing machines going. The door to the bedrooms sorta half open. But I can hear him, and can still see him from when I went in before.
I can still hear him hanging on her every word. And I can hear the tense parts. The scary parts, and hear his enthusiastic questions. Right now in the room next door ‘its is freezing in the boat’ and someone’s trying to start a fire. And the washing machine just finished. The musical tune just played and I can hear better.
Beautiful sunset tonight. From all the way east to all the way west. We all went outside and looked across the skies, and then his mum and I found it was more beautiful later. From inside our sons room, looking out. A time to reflect on being here, where we were then, while/now the sun dips and the night begins. To be here now, is to be in all those other places before that were empty. And while Tū Tonu is there in that other room, on the couch sleeping. That we can stand together as his parents. And see that, he is as he as he is. He is as he was, and that he is of the two of us as well. And we hold each other and reflect that we as his parents grew together to be standing beside each other now.
Light is an exhale caught by the air and gasping. Last night I could barely breathe. I turn back and see that light dropping on my feet, and the shadow of me cast along the ground. Last night I could barely breathe, today I near collapsed. My body is before me projected on the ground. Like a silhouette used to cut. A spade first then a shovel. I am buried there. I point at the ground, then go inside.
Sometimes cloud cover, sometimes a night filled with stars. I feel my feet on the ground and a drink and a smoke in my hand. I don’t see. I can see, but I can’t believe these things to be true. I don’t see this world. I see through it. I feel the world I grew in. And I feel the powerlessness of thinking backward. And I’m tired of standing against it. I need to cut those ties, break them & leave the past that’s trying to kill me. All I am is walking backward into the future. I should be able to see something for the first time and not have a frame to put it in. But in me, I don’t think that we can unthink, in order to see without our past.
When my son was born. They passed him to me. Skin to skin. I held him with my shirt off like the nurses said to. I held him and I saw his eyes first open. Big black eyes. This was one of the many times that a child first tried to see. My eye’s looked into his. He looked into mine. They tell you before birth and later, that it’s too early for a newborn to see. But to me, and I think to him, we looked into each other. I don’t know that I expressed anything. All I was, was looking. He looked into my eyes and I saw him recoil. As if this world and I, were all something other than what he was expecting.
When I look up to the stars, I see them and it’s always felt to me, like they’re seeing me. Like they see everything. How do they think of a life in relation to an eternity? When I look up it’s like one first opening their eyes to see. But I don’t see. This world is something else. Those place are somewhere else. That’s why you look. ‘Cos all those places are beyond all else. They stretch beyond where I can imagine. I can only walk the surface of it and get lost in it.
It was in the womb that eels consumed him. Coiling around him to devour his mother’s dark pigment and to leave him transparent.
Hearing sounds from the dense newness of the city like a cacophony of sonar bouncing from the hidden places that reveal themselves, when you’re right upon them. In this space an allegory of support. Running my hand along the edge of the the town hall, to borrow it’s strength and keep standing. Then here ‘we’ are. ‘We’ born when the voice that was inward speaks out and includes you.
Here we are supposedly active and are not the mindless passengers of our legs or our bodies.
‘Cos you might get hit!
Have you also seen the stars of purapurawhetu that emanate from your own head?
& you fallen in a heap? Do we sleep so soundly in each of these flash, flash flashes? Too flash eh! E Tū? Oho ake? Or is it E noho? What do we do in between with all these lights? Each flashing light cut by a black segue-way. Or are we awake – in the repetitive concussions of these light fluctuations?
I felt the gravity and the weight of the earth spinning pushing me down.
In contrast he floated.
I first saw him out the corner of my eye. Separated from me, by as much as he could see right through me. His eyes placed him well beyond he sat. For a very short time we looked into each other. I paused, then turned away, while he remained stationary accounting me.
In my unease I became aware of the distance that separated my physical and conscious self. There, in that non-space I could image his pain. I saw him, in that white/blue light you get when close your eyes tightly. I could see him there navigating an untraversable distance of space. Where in solitude he ran ever away from the eyes of those who would try to find him.
Like a great man who had been gifted a terrible knowledge of everyone’s pain, and who sought in noble and beautiful silence to map and portion a galaxy for the memories of others, far away from where those memories could do harm.
He hid all of that up out there somewhere.
Haunting perpetual grief enclosed in the glare of blinding points of reference all ominous and a drift in his mind. Painful reminders of what remained imprinted for everyone forever.
Like the footprint steps he left in the dust as he walked across the face of the moon.