I am a lapsed poet these days, Nadine. Not many people could have coaxed me out of that, even to not-write a non-poem like the one we made.

But it was Nadine. Anne. Hura. and Annie. Te. Whiu., both poets and cherished friends, who were on the other side of the invitation. Both worth admiring for what you put to the page and for what you build off it, both people I loved to spend time with.

Nadine, we wrote this non-poem at times in our lives where any other kind of poem would have gotten in the way. We exchanged long missives, including Annie, about how we fully intended to write a poem. We sent voice notes, had Zooms. We reassured one another: ‘soon’. We critiqued the colonial time that put these pressures on us – and thanked Annie and Red Room for holding it back as much as they could. (Where else could, or would?!) But for a long while, we couldn’t do it.

For me, this was a time of very big personal and community-wide pain. I know, without speaking out of place I hope, that it was a time of equal and even greater agony for you, Nadine. Any path to writing something beautiful across the water that connected this continent and Aotearoa seemed blocked by the very forces that we wanted to write about.

But eventually, having written essays to each other about what was in the way, we thought ‘what if this was the poem?’ And that was the invitation that opened itself before us.

So, we did that. We made a testament to these barriers, over which we shot messages of understanding, care and compassion for each other. We articulated our fear that we might have let each other down while trying to survive. (You could never have let me down.)

Some of our pain made it to the page (the trivial, the petty, the enormous, the anguished), most of it didn’t. It went along with some of our joy (the sincere, the deflective), the fears (the known, the cloudy). Ours wasn’t an attempt to document the experiences themselves as much as how they blocked us in to a kind of silence. A mutual acknowledgement that we could not, as much as poetic ego might otherwise have us believe, do it alone in a colony.

This non-poem was a relational practice between us, one that was humbled in the best way once we understood that sometimes Indigenous writing, our writing, must sit under the shadow of survivance or even the shadow of keeping life going (ours and others). And having sat in that shadow, something weird and vivid and defiant could happen. Thank you, Nadine, for making it happen.

You must not age into silence! In this process, I have heard so clearly (shot over the barriers between us) the loud, precise, explosive voice in your chest. It sticks to the beautiful.

Our Poem has changed me in its small and beautiful way, and I hope in a way that sticks. I feel secure in vulnerable collaboration in a way that I have not before and I hold this non-poem close to my chest as proof of what is possible.

I want to thank you both, Nadine and Annie. I thank the Wangal and Gomeroi lands that held me while this non-poem was being made.

With love.