Portrait of the Body Farewelled – NaPoWriMo 2017 – Day ten – Prompt portrait poem

Benita unveiling etc 255

Portrait of the Body Farewelled


In our culture

the body lies in a place

of our meetings. For some,

it may be a Marae, but for us

you lie now in our sitting room

and will do for the next three days.

People come and go. Access to the food

areas is closed off. Seating is on all levels;

mattresses either side of the coffin. I sleep

beside you and you appear to me now as you

did in the early days of our marriage. Because

you are my husband and this is how I best remember

you; before the heavy medication and steroids changed

you. “See,’ I say to our eldest grandchild who sleeps this last

night opposite me; “see how slim and handsome he is. An artist

has airbrushed him well for us.” Nothing of his eight decades

is in this portrait. Three nights I slept, as I always had, at your side.


Many years after you’ve gone I summon the words for the portrait;

your body lying slim and handsome. All portraits of the living were

removed from the room as you lay here: and returned soon after

your tangi. In our culture, this is what we do. I can in no way take

photographs, painting a picture would be wrong. I log your portrait

in this way, the words written long after.


Benita H. Kape 10.4.2017


Marae   Maori meeting house

Tangi    funeral