• Marissa Johnpillai



after 'Parihaka: The Art of Passive Resistance'




Part the tent-flaps just enough to peek through.

You are the bold fingers of light, blinding at first

and I am a dark eye opening, a sideways mouth

with loosened lips. In time, we could adjust

to the iris of each other.




Reason is wise to hold her tongue

at the meeting of strangers. I empty my pockets

to show you bus tickets, seashells,

a single marble. Your sleeve still covers

your left hand. I harden my stomach.




Halfway between the shore

and the nucleus of every terrain,

I imagine a border along which settlers

of the land and visitors

from the sea can stand as equals.




Come to me hungry with an empty knapsack

on some other sunrise and I may offer

whatever my camp can spare. But today

I must etch a line in the earth

and mimic the warning growls of bison.




Portrait at the Tate


One hundred, five and twenty years before

the instantaneous camera,

Joshua Reynolds offered his own

painting of A Young Black

as an exemplar of portraiture

for his students to copy.


So many renditions of

A Young Black in the manner

of Sir Joshua Reynolds now exist,

each with full lips

parted, the left nostril flared

slightly more than the right


and those eyes, those eyes,

that it’s impossible to identify who

painted which. The young black

who was the young black

of A Young Black, too, remains

anonymous. A servant


of Reynolds perhaps, or of

one of Reynold’s friends. Maybe

his name was Frank. In any case,

the real difficulty is not so much

in the angle of the head but taking pains

to get the eyes just. so.