Sea in a Bottle by Sarah Maindonald


Sarah Maindolnald reads her own poem, Sea in a bottle, written in response to the exhibition Te Wheke: Pathways Across Oceania at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū

 Joe Sheehan Mother
Collection of Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetū; purchased, 2008

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it holds the ancestry of our peoples, it is extinct,

it holds each summer frolic,

it holds the memory of Maui’s birth,

it holds the memory of ice which covered the planet mammoths moa mother,

Enfys who strode into the waves an Amazon for whom jelly fish fled

and a small child felt limitless safety,


Tangaroa’s anger lives in this bottle,

in defence of his mother

he gouged his brother’s side

sand ran out between his ribs becoming skeletal,


we are skeletal

Tangaroa is turning

plastic poisoned,

oil smeared

moko misshapen by radiated waves

from Japan, from Bikini

his Pacific face barely visible


where is the mother?

sensuous curves of brown earth

draped on the bones of the multitudes

Tangaroa worshipped her,

he longed to be deep within her

snuggled soft with his siblings



cast away

swallowing the world’s waste

we searched for the quick fix,

the coke and sex on the beach 

the discarded condom

the genome of a people

…. seeping into the ocean.


he longed for the abundance she sheltered in her crevices

sustenance for the generations to come


she died

a death that tortured her over decades

she roused in struggle, regained the power of her limbs

but then they attacked her heart, the blood stopped flowing

she began to rot…..


we are skeletal, putrified, dissolved


the sea in a bottle….