Passages, shadows, braids


She arrived like a wave at high tide, crashed onto bended knees.
Marauding clouds packed a big sky, they raged to cover the sun.
The sun’s whisper breathed her. A family of tide-burnished stones turned
in dimmed light.
She was released from a wave’s clutch into the arms of wind burrowing
under her feet, shifting her back and forth.
Shore and sea were uninhabitable, yet the stones stepped her to shelter
among trees.
Eyes closed, she drew a picture of her landscape with loved ones singing
her into greenness and scattering wind.



Scent of mango and jasmine and incense linger on your skin,
by force of will.
You will kill the pain of leaving and arriving.
Your mother’s tongue will shape you.
As an upturned boat, your round hull
will bear new vine to bronze new beginnings.
The banyan tree you lie under, its leaves
grace the wind and sing your song. You know how to dance
your name as a gesture for a full moon in high summer.
You will praise sages, bow to mountains,
let songbirds tickle you into your seasons.
Light from unfamiliar eyes
will burn yours bright.



I was moving between worlds. I did not have stars making a diagram for me, but,     my father’s
chant braced me lace-like.      Here’s what happened as new seasons on new soil sparked new
meaning in my bodice.                                                                    I caught the tarata’s scent, heard
korimako sing from a kōwhai branch, knelt as red ngutukākā dropped in flutter. Crossing
braided rivers, waist high, by southern light, tupuna and aroha spelt me to emerge.
                            I wove my father’s chant into their vibrations and framed my dictionary
                                          for Aotearoa.                                              I am warp and weft on a long
loom                                                leaning into reflection of being.



Sudha Rao grew up in Dunedin after her parents migrated from Karnataka, South India and became connected to the Dunedin dance community through her own training in Classical Indian dance. Sudha has been writing a number of years. Her works appear in several publications and anthologies. In 2017, Sudha completed her Masters in Creative Writing from the International Institute of Modern Letters, Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington, and is focused on writing and performing her poems. Sudha is part of a collective of Wellington women poets, Meow Gurrrls. Passages, shadows, braids first appeared in the 2020 anthology Ko Aotearoa Tātou |We Are New Zealand. Sudha’s collection of poems will be published in 2022.

​Poem source details >


Ko Aotearoa Tātou |We Are New Zealand 

Photographer Credit: Steven Bailey