September 28, 2022
Just near the freeway underpass that follows the Kenepuru Stream in Porirua East there is a stretch of bright green grass by a cul-de-sac.
Just near the freeway underpass that follows the Kenepuru Stream in Porirua East there is a stretch of bright green grass by a cul-de-sac. The end of the dead end court is circular and it is ringed with fat black tyre burn off marks, circle upon circle. You could almost smell the fumes.
It was a cold winters day, early afternoon, but the light was already low in the sky. When the sun managed to fight through it drenched everything in golden colour. We were walking to the train station, following the pathway that criss-crossed the riverlet. The stream gurgle was strong but it couldn’t override the noise of the freeway cars, especially as the road was wet. Just where the verdant grass met the black tarred dead end of the cul de sac, I noticed this assembling of a dozen pile of small volcanic grey rocks, plastic flowers, yellow pink and blue next to a local council, high vis, coned rubber witches hat. It was a strangely perfect arrangement. From a distance it was hard to work out what it was. What was this assemblage? Who gathered the witches hat and the flowers together and why? But on a closer look the stones were clearly placed there to prop up a small wooden cross amongst the flowers and realised that this was a memorial grave site. Shining bright amongst a Wellington sun shower for a brief fifteen minute period in otherwise altogether grey gloomy day.
Later my daughter told me that a young Tongan boy had been murdered there a fortnight ago and this had been placed in his honour.
In the Pacific, you often find plastic flowers in cemeteries, in mut muts, in the mala'ekula, in churches. These plastic flowers don’t die and they shine brightly. Many of us pakehas regard them as a bit tacky but I get the practicality, and on this day and in this case the flowers, the witch's hat, wooden cross and the stones next to the burn off rings and the freeway underpass in the winter light was compelling. I presume the boy died in a fight. Jealousy, some ramped up payback, some lethal game of ‘he said, she said’, a distorted family honour where boys pump up their muscles, some idiot pulls out a knife and does something he will regret for the rest of his life.
I walked past the site a couple of days later when there was no sun and the day was drab. On that day the memorial didn’t look much. But two days earlier, on the one day when that sharp ray of sun lit the memorial like it was on centre stage, it was a rare thing of beauty that honoured a tragic loss of life. There is beauty on the plain. It doesn’t take money, or shiny metals. The friends of the poor boy who passed away, did his legacy proud.