the audience holds their breath
when the maori chief performs his warrior dance.

he menaces the chosen one with his glare and jutting tongue,
bellowing war cries in an unfamiliar language,
stamping, flexing his arms, waving his weapon,
charging ahead.

the chosen one inches forward
picks up a silver fern from the ground
accepting this symbol of goodwill,
and steps back.

the air is tense.

the chief beckons the chosen one,
draws him close and presses his nose twice against his guest’s
to exchange the breath of life.

the audience lets out a sigh of relief
at long last.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *
photo courtesy of bernard, taken in waitomo, new zealand.

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