This poem was written by Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Rest now, e Papat??nuku
Breathe easy and settle
Right here where you are
We’ll not move upon you
We’ll stop, we’ll cease
We’ll slow down and stay home
Draw each other close and be kind
Kinder than we’ve ever been.
I wish we could say we were doing it for you
as much as ourselves
But hei aha
We’re doing it anyway
It’s right. It’s time.
Time to return
Time to remember
Time to listen and forgive
Time to withhold judgment
Time to cry
Time to think
Remove our shoes
Press hands to soil
Sift grains between fingers
? Gentle palms
Time to plant
Time to wait
Time to notice
To whom we belong
For now it’s just you
And the wind
And the forests and the oceans and the sky full of rain
Finally, it’s raining!
Ka turuturu te wai kamo o Rangi ki runga i a koe
This sacrifice of solitude we have carved out for you
He iti noaiho – a small offering
People always said it wasn’t possible
To ground flights and stay home and stop our habits of consumption
But it was
It always was.
We were just afraid of how much it was going to hurt
– and it IS hurting and it will hurt and continue to hurt
But not as much as you have been hurt.
So be still now
Wrap your hills around our absence
Loosen the concrete belt cinched tight at your waist
And we will do the same.
Jacinta Ardern added: thank you for the amazing response to this poem! I never expected it to travel so far and wide. Many people have asked who the author is so I wanted to clarify that I wrote this poem on the train home after the announcement of total lockdown was made here in Aotearoa, New Zealand.
I felt like I could hear Papat??nuku exhaling in relief as we all began our journeys home. In truth, one month of lockdown is not enough. Even six months would not be enough! We need a total and sustained change of habit, globally and within our own communities.
I hope so much we take our time to reflect on the fact that if we can do it to save ourselves for a month, we ought to be able to make similar habit changes for Mother Earth for the long term. The most telling thing for me was how empty our veggie plant aisles were after lockdown was announced – in a crisis, we will turn back to our mother to provide (and of course she will!).
Lots of people have asked for translations…
Papat??nuku – Mother Earth (the addition of the “e” in front signals the words are addressed or spoken directly to her.)
Ka turuturu te wai kamo o Rangi ki runga i a koe – means something like, “tears from the eyes of Ranginui drip down on you” (Ranginui is our sky father, it is common to refer to rain as the tears of Rangi for his beloved, from whom he was separated at the beginning of time in order that there could be light in the world).
Not long after the announcement we were moving to level 3, it poured with rain in Porirua after many months of hot and dry weather. I could feel my garden rejoicing.
Hei aha – This can be translated in many ways, but I meant it like the English “oh well, whatever”
He iti noaiho – “something small”. Because our sacrifice feels enormous but in reality I think it is not sufficient to truly see Papat??nuku recover. However, in M?ori, we often talk about the significance of small actions or gestures. We say “ahakoa he iti, he pounamu.” Although it is small, it is a treasure.
Thank you so much for the support.