1. wetlands

in this city, it costs more to live
by the airport than by the sea

so we get stoned in the car at the
end of the runway, waiting for the

emirates A380, laughing as the richest
boys in town chant

my dad is your dad’s boss

when they score a try.
what i’m saying is, try harder -

there’s a swamp beneath us all, a cathedral
in the abdomen, and rūaumoko

tucking his hospital corners
into our decade of dreaming.

what i remember of the shaking is
claire’s brother swimming in

the burst drainpipe, and even now
the burnouts, the babes cruising

colombo, soy milk in the tussock
at taylors, and driving down

linwood ave in my bra.
mine are the bodies

high and dry, in the backseat,
orange sundown coming in hot -

mine are the kicks on the dash,
in the flotsam, the kaiapoi preachers,

perfume like sausage and fire, i run
until there’s a meadow to scream in:

i did not run out of grace
grace ran out of me.

mine are the sunny-siders, out on leave
hurling up ‘n go and looking for the stars

buried on brighton dunes, where the plastic
sky turns out to be a memorial

for something dead.

mine is the metropolis, named for the worshipped
and the place to worship him

just in case we forget, spend too long in rāpaki
and start using big words like rangatiratanga

or tamatea pōkai whenua,
who called the heat to come home.

mine is the city muted, bin inn on stanmore,
buying poppy seeds for the tea we take

lukewarm in pump bottles up the bridle path
realising halfway that we’d be terrible settlers

because you can’t colonise that which
you’re too high to climb.

mine is the city that smells like shit when
the wind hits, unswimmable piss-ponds

in the nervous system, so rank we all
wanna drive so fast we just lift off,

wanna lay down in a field, until the
continents rise up to meet us where we’re at

which is home-adjacent
which is bone deep

like a hustle of hips
foaming at the mouth

swim, swim,

to the light.

author photo of Isla Huia by Naomi Haussman

Isla Huia (Te Āti Haunui a-Pāpārangi, Uenuku) is a te reo Māori teacher and kaituhi. Her work has been published in journals such as Catalyst, takahē, and Awa Wāhine, and her debut collection of poetry, Talia, was released in May 2023 by Dead Bird Books. She has performed at the national finals of Rising Voices Youth Poetry Slam and the National Poetry Slam, as well as at Christchurch’s Word Festival. Isla can most often be found writing in Ōtautahi with FIKA Collective, and Ōtautahi Kaituhi Māori.


​Poem source details >



Isla Huia's Dead Bird Books author page



Photographer credit: Naomi Haussman