It was like being summoned suddenly

from idle, barefoot play

to put on “good” clothes to meet some

important visitor from town…that day

when they told me they were sending me away –

from them, from home, from here, from

this my universe – to live in the city where

I must go to school and try to get

a scholarship to go to another school…

But I was already lost, just thinking about it,

and something umbilical that anchored me

to that place – and to all that was carefree –

snapped, and I said stiff, awkward farewells

to people, places, things that I seemed to be seeing

for the first time. I was told not

to cry, that uncles and grandparents would

love me and look after me and…

So began my everlasting exile

when I stepped onto that fortnightly steamer

and sailed out of the Mora passage, out

of the Waini estuary, along the coast to town…

Oh I saw everyone and everything again,

at the holidays… was eventually joined

by my brothers as they reached the age;

then they built a house and the whole family

lived in town… But before I knew the word

I knew I would always be an exile – holding

back tears, repeating a fierce vow

that if anyone was going to be hurt, it

would be me, only me… because I can take it…

and fifty years later, I still sometimes repeat

that vow and remember that first voyage

into the eternal exile of my heart.

“Exile” By Mark McWatt


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