Deborah Faith Thompson works in the linguistics department at Massey University. She moved back to New Zealand in February of this year after earning a Masters degree from Oxford University. She’s currently working towards her first collection of poems.
I am often inspired by language itself and enjoy crossing boundaries between different languages. These two poems are each in their own way an exploration of sign, symbol and meaning within the structures of words.
Deborah Faith Thompson
or auricularia polytricha, is a fungal
name, connoting the ear of Judas who
was said to have hanged himself from an elder
tree, where Jew’s Ears sprout, though here they
grow on deceased Māhoe trees, a.k.a. Whiteywood:
The English named it for its white bark; Māori
for bearing blue-purple berries. Incidentally,
Māori called the Jew’s Ear hākekakeka:
keka meaning ‘lunacy’ and ‘lament’;
hā meaning ‘breath’ and ‘sound’.
What grief did they hear in the
deadman’s ear? His keka
echoing from dead tree
trunks that spilled
Te Whare Tapu o Te Wairua
is for door:
I have hung your fragrance
over the parted veil
of my entrance.
is for tent floor:
My spirit rolls out
a rug to rest my soul.
There is room for you.
is for tent peg:
The violent hook that lifted you up
and holds me down like the tree
whose branches grow so heavy
they stab the ground slow.
is for a man’s head:
The firstborn from among the dead,
you were first to love me.
My house is your house.
is for tent wall:
Tall enough to hold me in,
soft enough to carve you on,
thin enough to burn me up
when my breath