A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Inscription for the wall of a power station

A topical poem for Social Justice Week

Matiu Jackson fell from the face of a dam,
18 years old and lately out of borstal.
They buried him without a tangi.
John Ball died here drunk, yelling,
Pinned under the blade of a bulldozer.
Thomas Macfarlane, killed when the tunnel
caved in...

Ko te Kawana rite ki a Parao.
A thousand nomad workers
Built this power station, tomb and pyramid,
Where even the water is owned by Pharoah.

 The grass bends when the wind blows over it,
But their lives were less to King Cheops than grass,
So many pay packets, so many marks on a sheet,
Today so many statistics of unemployment.

When you plug the cord in for the electric toaster,
Remember the blood of men is flowing through it.

 James K. Baxter 1969

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1 Responses »

  1. James K Baxter also penned a powerful poem called "The Maori Jesus"

    I saw the Maori Jesus
    Walking on Wellington Harbour.
    He wore blue dungarees.
    His beard and hair were long.
    His breath smelt of mussels and paroa.
    When he smiled it looked like the dawn.
    When he broke wind little fishes trembled.
    When he frowned the ground shook.
    When he laughed everybody got drunk.
    The Maori Jesus came on shore
    And picked out his twelve disciples.
    One cleaned toilets in the Railway Station;
    His hands were scrubbed red to get the shit out of the pores.
    One was a call-girl who turned it up for nothing.
    One was a housewife who’d forgotten the Pill
    And stuck her TV set in the rubbish can.
    One was a little office clerk
    Who’d tried to set fire to the government buildings.
    Yes and there were several others;
    One was a sad old queen;
    One was an alcoholic priest
    Going slowly mad in a respectable parish.
    The Maori Jesus said ‘Man
    From now on the sun will shine.’
    He did no miracles;
    He played the guitar sitting on the ground.
    The first day he was arrested
    For having no lawful means of support.
    The second day he was beaten up by the cops
    For telling a dee his house was not in order.
    The third day he was charged with being a Maori
    And given a month in Mt Crawford.
    The fourth day he was sent to Porirua
    For telling a screw the sun would stop rising.
    The fifth day lasted seven years
    While he worked in the asylum laundry
    Never out of the steam.
    The sixth day he told the head doctor,
    “I am the light in the void;
    I am who I am.’
    The seventh day he was lobotomised;
    The brain of God was cut in half.
    On the eighth day the sun did not rise.
    It didn’t rise the day after
    God was neither alive nor dead.
    The darkness of the void,
    Mountainous, mile-deep, civilised darkness
    Sat on the earth from then until now.
    I believe that until we see the face of Christ in each person we encounter,
    then justice is only a throw-away phrase, a politically correct notion.
    We also need to be mindful of who has has made possible our present lives:
    "When you plug in the cord for the electric toaster,
    Remember the blood of men is flowing through it."
    We are only a very small part of a very large continuum.
    May we be grateful for all those who make our comfortable lives possible.
    May we be grateful that Christ is revealed to us over and over and over throughout each day.