Peter Farrell:  New Zealand Writer

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Some Poems



Whakapapa


They ask me where I come from,

But my roots don't run that deeply. I have no waka.

I say "London" but I don't belong in those indifferent streets.

Dad denied his heritage and his son and left

His seed growing in Mum's belly.


She looked to family but there was no whanau there.

They were from Ireland but you wouldn't know except for the name,

And, even then, they dropped the prefix "O", and the Pope, to appease the English.

Now there are you two – my mokopuna.

What do I tell you? What is your whakapapa?

Where are you from?


You can say nga tupuna held you when you were born,

You felt our strength and love for you.

I will be your kauri, your korowai, your shelter.

But, one day, the kauri will fall

And you will have the rakau for your waka.


Waka – ancestors canoe

Whanau - family

Whakapapa – Family tree

Mokopuna - grandchildren

Nga tupuna – Grandparents

Rakau - Timber


Note: This poem was written before my search for my father. In fact it was my mother who adopted the prefix 'O" because she liked the sound of it.


Last Words


“Why didn’t you tell me?”

Confused, I bent to listen

But the question, whispered through crooked, frozen lips

Was all you had to say.

The brain, so nimble for so long, so open to new ideas,

Was helpless against the tsunami wave of darkness

Those once clear eyes fixed blankly on some place unknown

Your hands lay still at last on hospital sheets, like discarded gloves,

Creased and useless.


I knew nothing of that soft, compelling woman you had been

They said you were wild and uninhibited, grabbing at life

But you made me, you grew me

It was you that changed so we could survive together

From you, I learnt to laugh and shrug away adversity.

But you could not prepare me for your question

Anymore than you could prepare yourself for the seed

That moved inside you while the sirens screamed and the earth shook

You never talked to me of lost love

Whether to protect me or you

I do not know


I could not answer your question.

Was it the present or the past that was worrying you?

The person I am may have recognized a cry of anguish

But I was just a child then

I knew nothing of death or fear or guilt.

They were grown up things.

As was love.


I could not answer your question.

Was it addressed to me or to that other man?

The one you fought and may have loved in equal measure

Perhaps he could tell you why he left

Perhaps he could tell you why he never looked back


I can see you shrug your shrug

Only you and he know the answer.

Perhaps the question was mine to ask after all.

“Why didn’t you tell me?”

March 2009


Note: Writing The Lie That Settles caused me to view my mother through my adult eyes


Britain votes to leave the European Union.


Sirens screeched and searchlight beams,

Pierced the ink black sky with lethal menace.


A small boy, head flung back, enthralled,

As young men in stygian space above

Fought out the fearful contradictions of war.

A bitten pencil traced bullets, bombs and flames

I drew that battle like many others.

Unaware of death and dying

Or why my mother held me close.


I knew this was the way it always was

Like some football match, one day we’d win.

Last night, I lost hope that history would hold its breath.


My generation, unscarred by war, bent to jingoism

And stumbled to the edge of chaos


June 2016