Deborah Faith Thompson

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


Jew’s Ear


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’;

meaning ‘breath’ and ‘sound’.

What grief did they hear in the


deadman’s ear? His keka

echoing from dead tree

trunks that spilled

violet tears?


Te Whare Tapu o Te Wairua


D’borah דבורה


Dal ד

is for door:

I have hung your fragrance

over the parted veil

of my entrance.


Bet ב

is for tent floor:

My spirit rolls out

a rug to rest my soul.

There is room for you.


Waw ו

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.


Resh ר

is for a man’s head:

The firstborn from among the dead,

you were first to love me.

My house is your house.


Hhet ה

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

has gone.