I have seen it – wobbling
in the gaps between trees.
I have seen it eating fruit and roots.
I have seen them fight with their feet.
I would like to make an apron
from its feathers for my wife.
Have you heard of the ngārara?
I have followed it into a cave,
from which it emerged a small goose.
I have dug deep pits by swamp,
covered them with fern and sticks.
I have made a child cry.
I have heated stones it will swallow.
I have made snares from rope, rope from flax.
I have chased one until it tires.
I have built an oven especially for it.
I have sucked fat from the skull.
I have seen the monster, which ran
from me, and I from it.
Some blame the weather, some a great fire.
Some say it was gone before we got here.
I have heard it lived on a mountain.
I have heard its roar, its cry like the low
of a cow, its shriek of single notes.
I have seen the one said to be the last.
I have seen its face, like a man, like a cat.
I have seen cinnamon and chestnut,
a red half-moon below the eyes.
I have seen three by torchlight.
I have seen footprints in the sand and snow,
its three toes, three volumes I have read.
I have found a soft, bleached bone.
I have seen dogs gnawing on those.
I have seen it kill a dog.
I have seen it eat a man.
I can’t remember what I first said,
and also my camera is faulty.
I know what an emu looks like. And an ostrich.
I have seen a red deer.
I have seen a horse.
I have seen a swan.
I have seen a sheep, a beaver, a wallaby.
I have seen Sam’s hand flashing
for another corned beef sandwich,
his arm in brown swanndri, a long lithe neck.
This poem is inspired by the three volume set Moa Sightings, by Bruce Spittle (Paua Press, 2010) – both the author’s undertaking of the book itself and the accounts of moa sightings contained within it – and takes descriptors from this source.
Louise Wallace is a New Zealand poet and the author of two poetry collections: Since June (2009) and Enough (2013), both published by Victoria University Press. Her work has also been anthologized in The Best of Best New Zealand Poems (VUP, 2011) and Essential New Zealand Poems: Facing the Empty Page (Random House, 2014). She is the Robert Burns Fellow for 2015 at the University of Otago, New Zealand.