When I first heard your whistle, your
'Here boy'
I could've sworn you said 'poi.'
Good name for a dog. A dog you love,
furred and neat in black and white taniko,
panting aloud
at the swing of hips
                  the throw of a bone

I wield my poi, code
for all the places I've laid my tongue
let my poi travel,
long poi, short poi
poi in bars
by fires
poi, clammy with heat.

E poi,
chased by so many dogs
rabid and hungry,
your whistle
the charm of mouth breathers,
billboard promises on unceded land
our post-racial             society.

Whose dead poi are these?
Make them sing, you say
put some spin on it, girl.
The linguistic company we keep
dog whistle semantics.

My mother taught me the way,
teeth bared and snarling,
to whiriwhiri the cord,
to bind it by whipping.

It's all in the wrist, she said,
like flipping the bird.
Whirl your poi like verbal nunchuks,
send your tongue out marching and

give them their balls on a string.

Photo by Ebony Lamb

Anahera Maire Gildea (Ngāti Tukorehe) has worked extensively as a visual and performing artist, a writer, and a teacher.  Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies including Cordite Poetry ReviewPantograph PunchLandfall Online ReviewBlack Marks on the White PageHuia Short Stories, the NZ Edition of Poetry (2018), and Tātai Whetū: Seven Māori Women Poets in Translation. She has been an award finalist for both her poetry and short stories and won the Huia Best Novel Extract in English and the takahē short story competition.  In 2016 she published a book of poetry, Poroporoaki to the Lord My God: Weaving the Via Dolorosa, with Seraph Press.

She holds a BA in Art Theory, Graduate Diplomas in Psychology, Teaching, and Performing Arts, and an MA in Creative Writing from Victoria University of Wellington. In 2020 she took a hiatus from PhD study to convene the MA poetry and nonfiction workshop at the International Institute of Modern Letters.

'A Water Suite', her poetic collaboration with Evelyn Araluen as part of Red Room Poetry's Fair Trade project, was first performed live online in August 2021, during Red Room's World Poetry Month Australia/Aotearoa showcase.

Anahera is currently working on doctoral research examining Māori literature. She's interrogating what it means to retain rhetorical sovereignty, both as an indigenous writer in Aotearoa and in the critical discourse space.

​Poem source details >


Poroporoaki to the Lord My God, Weaving the Via Dolorosa (Seraph, 2016)

Red Room Poetry's Fair Trade project (2021)

Sedition (Taraheke│Bushlawyer, 2022)