Please note that the poems and essays on this site are copyright and may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

Saturday, 17 July 2010




Moai statues at Ahu Akivi, Rapa Nui (Easter Island): photographer unknown, n.d. (NOAA Geodesy Collection)

The broken statues stranded upon the shore
Thin-lip'd pouting ancestors who don't recognize their offspring
Any more. They've been knocked off their blocks
Toppled to the ground, buried, fractured in various places,
Replanted facing away from the sacred ground.

They speak inwardly to themselves of matters and concerns
That have been of no particular moment to anyone
At any time within memory.

Their words are bare murmurs
Scattered on the sea wind, lost
Fragments of unknown languages,
Whispers, half-audible subvocalisms,
Bits of sound as broken
As they are. The only audience is
A passing rack of cloud.

..............................Does the slow
Extinguishing of old stars --
The night sky's wreath unwoven thread
By thread -- happen like this?
One by one they go out,
A dying-off of desire, as the mind
Wishes only for an end to distance
In the light. The light which will be hard and cold

And flowing into rock, as water into stone
By the shore, with no one here
To know this, or to say
These giant shapes ever shadowed out the lines
Of figures with names, to an unconcerned eye,
Into the silence of an island beyond Odysseus' sail.


Ahu Tahiri, Rapa Nui (Easter Island): photo by American, 1999


Radish King said...

This is so elegant and thoughtful and full> I've always been fascinated by Easter Island but I have never considered what they might be thinking

Annie said...

Despite the title, says it all.

TC said...

Thank you, Radish and Annie.

There is thinking and there is an end to thinking that is beyond thinking, that little space before the thinking starts up again.

For one moment I feel the moai have been made happy.

(For a long time people didn't know they had bodies, because the bodies were buried under the ground. And it seems there were also periods when, if you were pissed off at the guys on the other part of the island, you went and pushed their moai over. So the moai have actually endured quite a lot. Just lately some joker chipped a piece off one of their ears. So much for tourism.)

(And it is still a great mystery how they were moved over large stretches of hilly ground and set into place. Sometimes, as Keats suggested, bless his heart, there is a greater pleasure in the NOT knowing.)

human being said...

perhaps this is just a universal yearning to find out about our true ancestors...

once i fell in love with these and tried to find out about them...

many of them have some hats too... this fact plus some other signs lead some researchers to this theory that they have been some people from east... coming to this island... and always waiting for their people to come and find them perhaps...

this poem transcends this subject and talks about something deeper... more human... really loved it!

in my silence
all the cosmos sings


TC said...


Though of course we lack the cultural understanding based in experience, we do sense something palpable of other worlds in the realm of the moai.

It appears that through the production and ceremonial attendance upon these massive statues of deified ancestors the people sustained a symbiotic relationship with the dead. The dead provided for the material necessities of the living, and the living, through offerings, armed the dead against the terrors of the spirit world. Human settlements were situated on the coast, and moai were erected all along the coastline, set up so as to gaze inland, watching over their descendants in the known world of the settlements the lay before them, with their backs turned upon the unknown, the spirit world in the sea.



Beautiful pictures from which to write this, "Mute" but also not (since we're reading it here, maybe even out loud), "The only audience . . . A passing rack of cloud" (so it so often seems). . . .

On another note, we were reading Tintin yesterday, Flight 714, whose adventure leads to inside a volcano on the island of Pulau-pulau Bompa (somewhere btw. Djakarta and Sidney) with a stone statue that looks quite like those here -- perhaps Herge had been looking at pictures of Easter Island?

TC said...


I think the Flight 714 fictional location was the Lesser Sunda Islands (Indonesia).

There's one active volcano: a pretty good one, too:

Mt. Rinjani.

The weird statues in the cave beneath the volcano in the story sound generic, though as it's apparent they have been put there by the extraterrestrials, and as the logistical mystery of the moai has never been solved, perhaps it's "safe to assume" (!!) that the same or similar forces are/were at work in both cases.

We heard it here first.

bill sherman said...

I've been fortunate enough to have been to Rapa Nui (it was called Easter Island only because the first Europeans (Dutch) to see the place did so on Easter Sunday, killed some indigenous people, and sailed on)...The Moai had no "hats" (though it's a common misperception) - the red rock on top of the statues (quarried from a different place) indicated the HAIR, which was worn in a topknot fashion....It is generally agreed by the people of the island (and by Alfred Metraux, the excellent scholar whose book, EASTER ISLAND, published in 1917, remains an invaluable text, how the Moai were moved. Every last tree was felled to roll the Moai into position via a system of pulleys....The people worked for centuries to carve (and move) the Moai from stone until they were all toppled in the "civil" wars....I've published essays on Rapa Nui, (including a tribute to the great Thor Heyerdahl and his much disdained-in-academia (of course) work on migration theory) in FIRE (edited Jeremy Hilton, Oxfordshire, UK) and in Len Fulton's now defunct "Small Press Review" (California) and a chapbook in-part about my time there was published by Allen Fisher as Spanner #41(2004) titled THE MANA OF THE MOAI, should anyone reading this be seriously interested....Neruda's wonderful late-life sequence of poems of Rapa Nui translated as THE SEPARATE ROSE (by William O'Daly) was published by Copper Canyon.

human being said...


same object
different researches
different interpretations
different perspectives

same truth?

waiting for them
avoiding them


TC said...

Bill, hb, many thanks.

I'm aware of the Love theory involving the rollers.

I take it no theory has achieved universal acceptance.

This short film explores the Easter Island Mysteries.

The native story of Mana is taken seriously therein.

There is a section of the film devoted to the possibility that the basalt used in the sculpting of a few of the moai came from caves that are now submerged.

leigh tuplin said...

They walked, and on realising they'd walked enough, turned and stayed, looking back upon, and allowing us to do also.

Aliki said...

i really liked this it was kinda -- sentimental? is that the right word? oh well, im still young and too lazy to look words up in the dictionary, but anyway my point was it really makes you think

TC said...


That's as good an account as any I've heard, and as a carless geezer with foot problems (two dislocated metatarsals), I can easily identify. One walks just so far and then simply wants, as the expression goes, to take a load off one's feet. And in the case of the moai, that load would have been formidable.


Thanks very much for coming, and yes, you must be a sensitive reader, as you have detected the presence of a bit of sentiment in this, and a bit of thinking -- in short, the poetry. Your sensitivity to that is surely a good sign, whatever your age