Christian Warrick is a Philly-born poet with a passion for exploring the world and learning everything he can. Currently a sophomore attending the University of Pennsylvania; Christian, or Chris as he prefers, spends a lot of his time writing, playing video games, and thinking about the universe. His writing centers largely on the concept of male vulnerability and healing, particularly in matters of romance and heartbreak. He is Maori-American, and has recently been exploring what that identity means to him. His first chapbook, entitled “Gunka: A Fox’s Warsong” was published last year, and he hopes to use the many things he’s learned about the poetic craft since then to put forth another book sometime in the next few months.
25 TINY ESSAYS ON REBIRTH
To the Du-nain tribe of the Maori people, death isn’t an end to existence. The afterlife is a great sea, and in death you are cast back into it. The strength of your soul is tested, and you must fight to swim your way to the surface. Succeed, and be reborn in a new body. Fail, and you are unworthy of a new life, destined to forever drown, being thrashed and thrown by the waves of the sea of souls.
Why does religion assume we want to be born again?
I hesitated to not use the word “we”, it seems arrogant to assume I know everyone’s thoughts, everyone’s wishes. I assumed, in knowing that my mind urges to tear itself apart sometimes, and I don’t think about coming back very often.
I hate essays where I can’t use the word I. I am not “the student”. I am not “the speaker”. I am not “no one”. I have a name. I have power.
I didn’t learn English until I was 6.
That will mean something, I promise.
My name is Za’el Drazhari. It means “Blade Dancing”. It’s a metaphor. I’m a metaphor for combat. I am a metaphor for bloodshed. Is this my power?
What does rebirth require? Something must die. This I know. Something must return. But must it be different? It must be new. But must it be better? Is rebirth a metaphor for change?
My name is Christian. It means “Lover of God”. It’s not a metaphor. I’m not a metaphor for religion. I didn’t use this name until I was 6. It’s not my name, it’s English.
See what I mean?
I always use “I” in all of my poems. “I” is not my name, is it? “I” is not my power. “Christian” and “I” are not metaphors. I am a metaphor. I can see my not-names burning.
The phoenix has always been a symbol of rebirth. To die in flames, to be remade out of ashes. Only to burn again and again.
Do phoenixes ever want to die?
My name is Za’el Drazhari. It means “Blade Dancing” my Grandfather gave me that name. My mother gave me the name Christian. She wanted me to fit in. She didn’t want me to burn too brightly. Am I being reborn now? Have I died?
Do I want to die? Can I die? Am I a phoenix?
A more appropriate title would have been “25 Tiny Essays on RE:Birth”
In response to birth, in recognition of existence, in addressing my mother for birthing me, my grandfather for re-birthing me.
My name is a metaphor for combat. My life has been a fight. Combat is all I know.
The Maori goddess of life and the ocean is called Nakae’a’borous, also known as the “Great Serpent Queen” or the “Drowning God”. Which is her name? What is its power?
Maori culture requires that you earn everything. You must earn a name. You must earn power. You must earn death, only to have to earn rebirth. The unworthy are unwelcome among us. To the Maori, simply living is not enough. You must earn life.
I wonder what I did to earn my name? I don’t dance. I’ve studied swordsmanship my whole life. The two aren’t that different. They both require all of you. My grandfather never told me why he named me that before he died.
I wonder if he’s been reborn? I wonder if he wanted it
Religion tends to tell people there’s a place for them in the afterlife if they’re tired. A place to shake off the weight of the world, to rest and spend eternity in joyous celebration. The Maori don’t believe in that. Only the weak rest. We don’t know what it means to be tired. That is our power
We only know how to fight.
We don’t even know how to win. Just how to fight again.
My blood is only 25% Maori. My father is half-blooded. My Grandfather is pure-blood Maori. He was made of the earth and fire. He was born to be a warrior. Every cell in his body knew what death was going to be like before they were made. He knew the warcry before he knew his name.
I say “he” or “my grandfather”. I will not use his name here. I question if I am worthy of my own name. I am not worthy of his.
When New Zealand was colonized, they took from the Maori, everything they knew to fight for. They took their weapons. They took their names. They called us “Polynesian”. We stopped being a people. We became, a landmark. A place. A ruin. Something to be looked at after it has fallen apart.
Something to be buried.
I say “we” because I will not separate myself. I am Maori. A quarter of my blood boils when I hear the word “Polynesian”. My name is not “Christian”. The rest of my blood boils when someone calls me “Australian”. I am not a place. I am a metaphor for warfare, for combat. I am a metaphor for all that the Maori people know. I am Maori.
-insert longer essay about the destruction of the Maori identity. I am too tired to write it-
After this essay. I am reborn, again. I am not “I”. I am not “Christian”. I am not “tired”. I am Za’el. I am a dancing blade, forged of Maori iron-blood. I remember. I know. I know. I know.
I must fight. I must fight.