South – Caitlin Jenkins

By August 11, 2021 August 20th, 2021 2021 award winner


our streets grow tread marks in the pattern of tapa cloth,
the men in blue roam them recreating
Da Vinci —
bronze skin mona lisa.
who knew your last supper would be a $2.50 Big Ben pie and a bottle of stars—
will we ever breathe the same freedom
as our brothers north and west?
cause oceania’s waves feel a little too familiar in the backseat
gps broken cause somehow it only circles round these streets—
you are but a direction on auckland’s map,
folded tightly into the plastic corners of
red and blue led lights,
police siren jams but not the jawsh 685 type
… forever branded as the bottom
the south of new zealand…
but it’s okay,
we’ll tau’olunga on their disrespect
wake them up at dawn with our cheehoos
breathe a brown colour palette back into their colourless minds
love us enough to not need it from anyone else
grow with each other
be strong with each other
block out their white noise with white noise
fill the cracks of Aotearoa’s pavements with more reasons to love south…
and put us back on the map…
unfold us out of the plastic corners of red and blue led lights
help reverse the damage of our roots with the healing of our new generations
cause leaves still bloom even more beautiful after the fall
for when our streets grow tread marks
we’ll repaint them with coconut oil and fala paongo,
when the world wants our faces to kiss the concrete
we’ll still be safe in the arms of papatuanuku
cause when things go south—
we’ll deal with them like south—
with the love our roots nourish us in….
bronze skin mona lisa,
who knew your last supper would be a feast of the colonised minds…
undo the bleaching of your brown colour palette
refill them with all shades of you
cause no direction will define where we’re really from,

Caitlin Jenkins
Year 13
Papatoetoe High School



  • Emily Bell says:

    What a voice! Your poem is righteous and loving and fierce. I will share it with my whole school – Kamo High School, Whangarei.

  • Taranga Kent says:

    Wow, that’s talent right there. Keep them coming, Caitlin.

  • Mathew Onipe says:

    Great work. I love this. Do keep it up.

  • Alastair Crawford says:

    Loved it!

  • Lenie Buis says:

    Beautiful words Caitlin. I have just listened to you reading your poem on Breakfast. You are a very talented young lady. Congratulations on your winning poem and keep up the excellent creative work.

  • Mark Rowse says:

    Tears in my eyes..tears at my heart. So powerful. Almost a Hokianga song.

  • John R Smith says:

    Congratulations. The Screams of the blue, & red led lights came across the screen. Well Done. You are a Star. Breakfast Show 02.09.MMXXI.

  • Gaynor Lund says:

    Caitlin what a very talented young girl you are and what a way to converse how you feel very deep meaningful
    As I wld say to my daughters
    You go girl the world is your oyster
    You can be what ever you choose

  • Roy says:

    There is a quality of universality to great poetry and/or music that comes from, but transcends, the specifics of the words. You have achieved that for me. I cried off and on for two hours as I copied and framed this incredible piece of work in order to frame it.

    I have no obvious connection to South Auckland or to your generation. I’m an old white guy, born in the Northeast of America, a former university professor, retired in Tauranga – but still you wrote my life. I was born in a French-Canadian blue-collar, mill town community. My parents did ok financially through hard, dirty mahi, but there is not a scene in Once Were Warriors to which they did not have a Canuck equivalent. I had no idea we were marginal until middle age when I was studying marginality, but it helps to explain why I was always at odds with my professional peers and bosses.

    But you have educated me as well. You brought me a bit closer to your reality and, while I would not presume too much, while I know much of it is beyond my experience, you have shown it to me from a new angle and you have taught me. As a teacher, I value that above pretty much everything else.

    Hearing you read South on tv made me cry and I cried off and on for two hours as I copied it from a news article in order to frame it. I love the power of great poetry and have several favourite poets, but I have not been touched this deeply by a poem since, in my early 20s, I read, “I have seen the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness” the first time I picked up Howl.

    You have a great gift and I want to thank you for sharing it. Please tau’olunga on disrespect all your life. You give me hope for us all.

    Be well.
    Dr. Roy Jacques

  • Roimata Baker says:

    Te MANA o te kupu! Powerful words Caitlin, I can’t wait to read this with my class.

  • Lachlan Timlin says:

    Amazing Stuff!

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