Saturday, August 22, 2009

Moennan Translated

There was a big moon, and then another returning, her belly swelling. All the time we lived on the quiet waters bound with stone, I did not question the Maori’s lack of kindness in keeping me from my people. I was glad for the peace.

At night, we fished.

I was the tallest girl, the tallest thing on the whole inlet and above me the stars blazed and the quarter moon glowed the water. I forgot my sadness, my loss and the angry tinglings of my diseased sex when the little boat grunted over crunchy coral and I spread my toes over the thwart of nets and punted out into clear water again.

William Hook forced a stake into the soft sand of the shallows, moving it in a figure of eight to ease it in. He looped the cork line around the wood. The boat lurched with his weight and I spooled out ragged net, while he rowed.

A little time later, we went back to the stake.

"Feel this," Hook handed me the cork line.

I took the wet, muddy rope in my hand. I felt the fish hitting the net, a sharp tug like when they take a baited hook. Then a flutter, a lighter hit, as they struggled. So I knew there would be a few.

"Hauture," said he.

"Madawick," said I.


I woke early when the air was still and cold. The wind stopped. Fire, a carcass.

I left my skins to squat a little way from camp, drove a neat hole into the gritty sand with my stream. I watched the dark loom of the Maori.

"Get up, Tama hine." He shook the little girl. "You got to see this ... something in the water,"

He stood just on the lacy edge of the water and strange blue lights shot out of his toes. Hot blue bullets fired away from his legs.

I heard the girl breathe in, quick.

"Fire in the water, Hine."

Each step into the sea, as we pushed out the boat, created flaming motion. Every stroke of the oars made a sparkling rush of sun diamond water in the inky brine, and then the dripping airborne oars traced arcs of wild colour beside the boat. Shrimp became tracings and drawings, stars falling through the sea.

Still dark and starlit, with the moon gone, it was what William Hook called a 'piccaninny sunrise', with a sly smile in the way of the girl, a little sunrise, no light yet but a sparkle in the eye of a new day.

Fish flew away from us leaving a comet tail of blue fire in their wake. The Maori rowed and rowed, straight past the stake in the sand that held fast the net and none of us dreaming folk even noticed, until we were well out into the centre of the inlet.

"There won't be fish tonight," he told me. "Net is lit up like a Chinaman's birthday."

I could see every single mesh shining blue, soaring up towards Hook's grappling fingers and swooping down into the water, gilt with glittery magic.

We caught a few, yes, some gleaming fat skip jack. By then the sky was lightening and all the fire creatures melted back into the secrets of the inlet.


  1. Excellent Sarah, is this about Waychinicup? Part of your honours?

  2. Yes and Yes! As you may tell, it has been cannibalised from a previous work. It's the part of the story just before Moennan and the little girl get taken to Eclipse Island by the odious Samuel Bayley

  3. Cool! sounding pared down , i like it.

  4. Love it! Very hard to describe what it is like to see such an event, but you have done wonderfully.

    Awesome as ever.