Vaughan Rapatahana

Vaughan Rapatahana lives across three countries – New Zealand, Philippines, Hong Kong SAR. His work is also widely published internationally across several genres, in more than one language. He is humbled and honoured to be selected in the latest Best New Zealand Poems.

I continue to be dismayed by the continuing diminished status of all too many Māori – and indeed other ethnicities – even in 2018. Still, I always hope and pray this country will wake up and do something seismic about this situation.


tahi kupu anake

ki he ao ki nui ngā kaitōrangapū porangi
ki he ao ki nui ngā tangata rawakore
ki he ao whakamahana o te ao
ko tūmanako te kupu.

ki he ao ki nui ngā pakanga
ki he ao o whakakonuka me apo
ki he ao ki te mate ā-moa o ngā kararehe
ko tūmanako te kupu.

ko tūmanako te kupu anake
ko tūmanako te kupu
ko tūmanako.

[only one word

in a world of many mad politicians
in a world of many destitute people
in a world of global warming
hope is the word.

in a world of many wars
in a world of corruption and greed
in a world of the extinction of animals
hope is the word.

hope is the only word
hope is the word



ka mate te kāinga* – the house is dead

the roof was a falsehood
as it imploded the ceiling
& the walls cried out
in mutual agony.
the sear-smearing grime
fleeing from the ransacked stove
daunted further the tepid bulbs
disconsolately bereft of shades.
me ora tonu te iwi i roto i tēnei wahi
was tortuous menace
of anfractuous gorse & incorrigible weeds,
greedily espousing their unruly fiefdom
over the dislocated mailbox
& through a flatlining fence
in genuflection to the defiant sky.
me ora tonu te iwi i roto i tēnei wahi
a mangy dog
skinnier than a miser’s purse
wilted where the gate
might have been,
its eyes gesticulations bereft of hope,
embodying and emboldening
this stark grimace of a place,
this forgotten neglect
too far gone to restore
& too close to ignore.
me mate te iwi i roto i tēnei wahi


[me ora tonu te iwi i roto i tēnei wahi:  and people still live in this place
me mate te iwi i roto i tēnei wahi:  and people die in this place]

*The original whakatukī or Māori proverb is ka mate te kāinga tahi, ka ora te kāinga rua:  When one house dies, a second lives.