Writer and peace-advocate, Ron Riddell, is one of New Zealand's most widely
published poets. He holds an arts degree from Auckland University and worked
for many years as a school teacher. In recent years, he has been travelling and
working in Latin America. Riddell has performed in a number of countries,
including Chile and Colombia, where his book, Spirit Songs (like El Milagro de
Medellin y otros poemas
) was published in a bi-lingual edition (English and
Spanish). A painter, musician and the author of a number of plays and novels,
he has published 15 collections of verse. At present, he lives in the New Zealand
capital city, Wellington, where he is Director of The Wellington International
Poetry Festival. In 2004 he was finalist in The Wellingtonian of the Year Awards.

White Feather
i.m. Te Whiti o Rongomai & Tohu Kakahi

On the steps of the kainga
beneath the white mountain
women and children
sit holding white feathers

no muskets, no meres
no adzes, no taiaha
only raukura from
an albatross wing

only an emblem of peace
of hapu, mana
and rangatiratanga:
to what avail against the guns?

To what avail against cold winds
from the south which
breach the pallisades
and storm the pa?

O raukura, raukura
cradled in our hands
white feather, white feather
sacred gift of the land.


Children throwing stones
in the muddy lane
a group of boys and girls
calling out rude names:

Sticks and stones will break my bones
but names will never hurt me

Who knows what happens here?
The storm clouds gather
and sweet rain falls
but I am left with another flavour:
on one side of the brimming lake
are crowded shacks, on the other
empty mansions, the oil
which frees their hinges,
dark, rich and indigenous.

*A small lakeside village in El Salvador.

What Bright Smiles
for Padre Rutilo Grande y sus compaƱeros

What bright smiles are these?
What reflections of the light?

What proud graduations?
What stout affections?

The stains removed
the tears unstitched

here in this shining place
perfumed with scent

of sleeping martyrs:
shine bright smiles, shine on

en este jardin de rosas
shine bright smiles, shine on

in this house of light
in these halls of silent reverie.

Shine bright smiles
over the ghosts of forgotten armies

Shine bright smiles
over mountains, rivers, plains

pueblitos de campesinos
pueblitos de esperanza

shine bright smiles
in the smiles of the people

shine in silent triumph
shine in silent song.

Note: Padre Grande was an activist and friend of Monsignor Romero.
He was assassinated in El Salvador in 1977. This poem is also dedicated to
six of his colleagues who were massacred by the El Salvadorean Army in
1989 at the Catholic University of San Salvador where they lived and taught.

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