Thinking about death

Apocalypse Now

I can't bring myself to read too much more about Moko Rangitoheriri, the Rotorua toddler killed by his caregivers. There's a sickening depravity to it all; a couple completely disconnected from their own humanity and the human spirit in others. They did unspeakable things to this poor boy. Also in the news last month, a three-year-old raped in her Whangarei home by a family friend 'amped on meth'. The offender claims he can't remember the incident.

A couple of years ago, Nigel Latta gave us an insider's view of the minds of violent criminals in his television series Beyond the Darklands. One episode focused on Nia Glassie, another Rotorua toddler tortured and killed by her whānau. Across all the episodes the stand-out, consistent feature in all of the criminals' background was poor attachment as children. When babies don't attach to their parents, they don't develop empathy. As adults, some of them become capable of violent, psychopathic behaviour.

Angry Men

Kendrick Lamar has been doing loop the loop at my place. The album Untitled Unmastered underlays spoken word with Jazz riffs. It's a masterpiece, less structured and polished than To Pimp a Butterfly, but much cooler. It brings the listener much closer to the artist. On one track Lamar is the voice of the dispossessed, sitting in his car at traffic lights watching a businessman crossing the road. The protagonist is going to follow the businessman home and bash his head open with a baseball bat.

Hong Kong based writer Vaughan Rapatahana writes similar stream of consciousness stories about angry men. I've edited the work twice. The close repeated reading required of editing means by the time the job is finished I feel the rage; the nutty hatred. In a weird way, I get it and I feel sick. Here's an excerpt from his short story Spree from the inaugural issue of the Māori literary journal Ora Nui.

He had killed again that very day, in fact: random; violent; quick. He didn't think that anyone had even seen him again this time, and he was rapidly getting to the point where he didn't really care much anymore anyway.

He had to kill a lot more frequently now. The urge seized him and took over much more than it had ever before. He shivered, but not through worry or fear. Merely because it was cold out there in the park, and frost had already started to form under his bare feet. No shoe prints you see. Somewhere a stray dog was whelping toward the nascent moon.

He breathed deeply and took off the rubber gloves he had bought down the line in a $2 shop somewhere. He rammed them into a pocket of his nicked overalls and breathed again. It was becoming so easy to kill, he thought. And this last one had hardly even put up a fight. It was almost as if she had wanted to be part of her own demise.

Whetu trudged away back home. He would have a shower and then lie on his bed and relive the sensation of peace that killing gave him.

A Velvet Rage

Inside me, there is a velvet rage. Its sources are multiple: growing up gay in a world I couldn't make sense of, racism, injustice, my mother's violent death, my father's addiction and dementia, broken relationships, a constant and niggling frustration at my own inadequacies. Sometimes the pain prickles underneath the surface of my skin. At others, it is in my chest and I want to scream at life's unfairness. I feel mad.

But there is perfection in the pain too. And once I see the beauty, healing follows.

About the images

This sculpture from Tia Ranginui is called States of Being. The work explores the concept of mauri, expressions of wellbeing, and a continual journey of healing and wellness.

Beauty and displacement
Beauty and its purpose
 

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