From the top and steady now
Looking up while falling down
On these mountains, we dance
Dramatise our fall from grace
Cold misty mountain range
Climb them all to reach the stage
Where our love notes sound so sweet
Where the cicadas sing as we sleep
Bring the fire dancers, bring the tears
Everything we lost over the years
Start the thunder, beat the drums
All we know we must become
I am a free spirit;
Though bound by obligations and duties
At times I feel trapped in this life that I chose to live
I know that I am still a free spirit;
The foundations I build are for you to grow your roots
I will rest only knowing you are taken care off
I am but a free spirit;
I am yours my love but only for now
I am but a shadow of what is me
A mask that cast doubt in what is me
The red blood in me is now thin liquid
It spills not on my land when I bleed
The sweat on my brow is becoming water
It falls not on my land and taste less saltier
The tears in my eyes is about survival
It drops not on my land when I feel vulnerable
My name is Boko
Son of the Earth
Great grandson of Nabwalega
Born under a village hut
Using herbs from the forest
In the ways of my ancestors
Rain drummed against the earth
And the wind whispered welcome
Nature embraced me warmly
Trapped between heaven and hell
Meandering through the jungle
I followed my ancestors’ spirits
Spells and chants were imparted
Waded through the twilight grove
And drank from the spirits well
I ate fruits of knowledge
Each fruit sweeter
Than the one before
I gathered the pearls
On Digalagala Island
Filled my mind with its wisdom
To save my people’s ailments
I see a monster
Rising within us
Rising among us
Rising deviously and
pervading every established
I see a monster
Looming with raw hands
Prodding the conscience
of every man
It takes no prisoner
Yet each man is a prisoner
Yes every man is a prisoner
I came home from afar
From the world of civilisation
Rejoicing at last for my spirit's revival
But my optimism failed
My heart beat dropped
My bones shook to extreme
My home is no more
The culture and traditions vanished
Traditional songs are rarely sung
Kundu and conch shell are heard no more
Foreigners turned my people’s heart
IN THE days when the world was new a small group of frightened people on one of the many islands far to the northwest of Papua New Guinea were preparing three large outrigger canoes for an ocean voyage.
On the hill overlooking the beach where the outriggers were moored a lookout kept watch ready to raise the alarm should the war canoes of their enemy appear on the horizon.
Boroma had never seen anything like it. The little black piglet was sitting in a bamboo pen in the hull of the largest canoe.
Everywhere men, women and children were hurrying about loading the canoes with everything necessary for the voyage. Bilums of taro and hundreds of coconuts were being packed into every available part of each canoe.
That which we are told not to speak, speak
That which uplifts the sad and weak, speak
That which is ignored on the street, speak
That which blesses at day break, speak
That which is a WikiLeaks, speak
That which we seek, speak.
That which we do not want to write, write
That which feeds your mind fright, write
That which keeps you up at night, write
That which is hidden from light, write
That which hearts confide, write
That which is right, write.
“If you can’t assure me of my money, you can wait a long time in the hall”
“It’s gavman payday so the staff usually get two and half hours for lunch”
“Highlands election is like coffee season, make money with little effort”
“Donated by Hon Con Artist MP” – Sign on district hospital ambulance
“My clansman is department head, so my claim will get the nod”
“If you want your paper work done, throw some lunch money at the clerk”
THE THREE men met for their usual Saturday get together. Public servant Tau, believer Christopher and villager Pele.
Old mates in the same class from community school to high school. After that they pursued their separate pathways.
They liked the Saturday get-together, discussing and talking about issues. This day they were at Tau’s place.
“Talicia, kam pastem,” Tau called to his second daughter, “go tokim mummy boilim wara na tanim saksak. Tokim em ba tingim uncle Pele na uncle Chris tu stap wantem mi.” [Come quickly Talicia. Ask mum to boil the water and mix the sago. Tell her that uncles Pele and Chris are with me.]
I have in my house a Crocodile
I can’t tell if she or a he
It does not attempt to bite me
Nor does it ask for food
Permanently it sits on hardwood
My name inscribed like an ad
A rocket on the launch pad
ready to take me on a long ride
to spread my name far and wide
The Crocodile I got at a ‘moka’ ceremony
Like a free pig, I paid no money
Received with thanks in Kundiawa
wondering if I’d get another in Arawa
But must allow the young to compete
the Crocodile Prize competition will be complete
Enduring like the everlasting daisy flower
I got my Crocodile Prize decreed by the powers
of Mt Wilhelm, so strong and mysterious
IT WAS recess and I was walking from the classrooms when I heard the unmistakable rattling of a chainsaw. The sound came from the direction of the head teacher’s house.
The tree fellers were here and the ancient, wrinkled mango tree was coming down.
Arriving at the scene, I saw a group of local men assisting the chainsaw operator.
There had been much controversy in the months and years leading up this moment.
I knew the old mango tree near the head teacher’s house had been judged and found wanting. Its ancient memories would soon be forever erased.
Crowded on one side were straight faced teachers, excited students and others locals had never before seen.
Everyone was focused on the operator as he occasionally revved the chainsaw to gain traction into the thick trunk of the age old tree.
We flee from the gods that we fear and know;
the eagles that fly and ants that burrow
deep into the recesses of our psych,
and stir in us demons of the Third Reich.
We curse the padres of the Holy See,
who hang our fate on clouds over the sea,
flirting with the images in our brains
as we scramble from the füehrer’s disdain.
Jimmy Drekore arrives home today after receiving his World of Children Award in New York – the ‘Nobel Prize’ for services to kids. Jimmy is an adornment to Papua New Guinea on the global stage
The extraordinary hand
That touches the hearts
Receives the World of Children Award
The single voice
That answers the voiceless
Receives the World of Children Award
The committed heart
That erases the tears
Receives the World of Children Award
So here I lie in the pigsty,
my worth and want to testify;
too rotten to sniff the Bible,
a tad too holy for the Rival.
So my soul suspends in the sky.
I bring my filth to the rabbi;
a coin I wave the Blood to buy,
but I’m baptised in his spittle,
so here I lie.
My ills I pray to justify,
but his incense stifles my cry.
Religion is a crude riddle.
When grace is abused it’s evil.
I’m just a man and I must die,
so here I lie.
The savannah plains of the central sleep quietly
Rocked by the cool breeze yelling south-westly
Her curtains made of white cumulus clouds
Deterring the sunlight attire of the Barakau blouse
There she sits along the Papuan coastline
Savouring the neat stretch of scenic greens
Past rivers that trench before the borderline
Of the capital, welcomed by nomadic grins
She sings a song of praise about Lakwaharu!
Traversing through the curves and curls
Aboard the showers of a sailing Larahara
Cherished by the pounding beats from her shells
Isn’t the anatomy of us amazing?
How our fingers may entwine and grasp
Firmly, my smaller hand in yours.
Escapades start when we walk side-by-side:
There must be a reason for this apposition
Of limbs that enables us to hold and be held so.
And isn’t the pliability of us pleasing?
How our bodies fit around, onto and into,
Snugly, my smoother frame to yours.
Entwined sinuously as we are, limb-for-limb:
There must be a purpose for this proportion
Of forms that allows us to match and to meld so.
I hear a cacophony
Not from trees in the breeze
With leaves rustling
But from them which have fallen
Like innocent victims of a civil war
Bare they lay side by side in the weather
Hear the chains rattling under
As barks peel off like sore skin
On long muddy beaches awaiting their turn
On sailing ships long voyages begin
Still like logs secured to cold metal plates
High seas their road to distant lands
The glittering rays of the rising sun
Glow over the gorge of the village Parua
The petals of late mama Puwau
No longer shimmer as they did before
The petals have wilted not like yesterday
The gentle smile has faded not like it was before
Your sweet face waning among the family
The memories of your endearing qualities die
You sing bridal songs as you parade
Soft and sweet is your voice
Floating swiftly through the valley
Echoing over the mountains, reaches
groom waiting patiently to see
you appear on the horizon
Fall of dawn will sign you off
Night to conceal your affair
This will sign your dreams come true
Carry your bridal bag with pride
Possum fur on your head high
Paint your face with ochre
Wear the grass skirt reaching your toes
Excel in beauty to win his heart
The faithful have come forth
Like bees in search of nectar
Many will come with a stomach
A few with a brain
Time to feed the stomach
Its last supper was 4 years ago
Like a bear from hibernation its hungry
May its excreta stink like desperation
May its farts be cacophonous
Like the grunts of a pig farm
But the brain, capsule of wisdom
Seat of knowledge
THE MORNING was chilly with mist hugging the ground and the coffee trees surrounding the village.
Inside the houses, the cold penetrated the blind walls and dug deep into blankets and bones.
Yasiiname, shivering on the pitpit bed, pulled the old gaman blanket over herself once again. She curled her legs in an effort to cosset herself within its feeble warmth.
She had done this so many times. Most mornings she had to throw back the blanket, emerge from the warmth of the bed and meet the cold morning to go to school. Today, was different.
Her last day of school, at least this school, had been yesterday. The compulsion to throw back the blanket was gone. She pulled it over herself again, making sure no drafts crept in from between the pitpit blinds. She wanted to wait for the cold to disappear before crawling out to face the day.
A poem for World Teachers Day, which is today
Crossing fast flowing rivers
Climbing terrains and mountains
Over the range with a bag of clothes
And a piece of chalk and duster
Reaching an unfamiliar school
Accommodated in a semi-permanent home
look at that hill-top peak
like the tit of a nubile virgin
how I lust for it
the dust in it
the rust of the days spent throughout it
under the sun of it
her rain that wet me and her heat that burnt me
how I was browned in it
and I wish and dream and fantasize
for the days I am there again
to behold the peaks of her earthly bosom
and strive the full power of my manhood
to give her the fullness of me
and I will
This is love that life has given,
and it's to You that I'm driven;
a star to twinkle in my heart,
a lily to bloom in my heart,
a beauty of which no bard has written,
a rhyme that cannot be broken,
and wings to lift me toward the heavens.
It is You, O Western Woman,
the spark of my fascination,
that I love with a poet's love.
and, say my Heart, a poet's love
is high among gods, and rare among man;
born in a poet’s sacred den.
It’s a love that angels covet even.
Despot toddler with a pot of honey
Using Haus Tambaran like a dunny
So smart and cunning to take our money
Lawyer’s gowns are the skirts of your mummy
Poor academics wave you blow-kisses
From underfunded ivory towers
Trammelled airmen join unemployed masses
But now you know that some will not cower
PNG has grown from strength to strength
Like a child who loses baby teeth
To grow the teen teeth
To prepare for adult age
You have come a long way
Leaving behind toddler days
From teen memories
You can be strong to stand alone
I have seen you ignoring liquid food
You don't want mashed food anymore
We were never a match (a)
She was a crusader from birth (b)
I was a realist during high school years (c)
We had different ideas and opinions (d)
From the time we started to date (e)
We both pursued dreams not the same (f)
I was white and she was just the same (f)
Black, her skin tone we could not match (a)
But December twenty-fifth was the date (e)
That our friendship gave birth (b)
I did not hate but her opinions (d)
For I cared so much for the coming years (c)
You see dried grass over rough cut logs
And the earth floor of my house
When I open my home to you
And you think to yourself how you can help me.
I smelled the air that morning we cut the kunai grass
And I heard the children laughing as they played
On the green knoll beside us
And I tasted the sweet sour sweat
As we hewed the living trees to earth.
One single word
Poured out by a tongue
Its vibration fell on two ears,
It multiplied and produced more words
Real and unrealistic ones too
It spread and landed in other ears also
Carried by winds of rumours
Those words flew here and there
Places, destinations, where-ever it takes
Twisted, tangled and mingled
VAGI SAMUEL JNR
This poem is about a girl I knew some years back at the University of Technology. Loretta found the poem on Facebook and sent a reply, also in poetic form. Here they are, first my original poem, then Loretta’s response….
Sometimes I think you're crazier than me
You test my emotions with shits untrue
You fail me with deeds I cannot see
I bet you do to make me feel blue
Sometimes I think you are a smart ass
You throw idioms at me that I may wonder
You play sarcastic cues so I can guess
And I think you do coz at least I ain't a loser
Tattooed Face: A Collection of Poems by Jordan Dean, JDT Desktop Publishing, 2016, 70 pages, ISBN: 978-1535348713, US$4.00 plus postage from Amazon Books
I’VE COMMENTED before on the link between Papua New Guinea’s traditional oral literature and the work of its modern writers, especially its poets.
In these observations I’ve expressed the view that there is a logical continuity from the old to the new that gives Papua New Guinean poetry a unique and distinct regional flavour.
As proof of this hypothesis is the popularity of poetry ‘slams’ in the country.
A ‘slam’ is poetry as performance rather than a reading experience. A ‘slam’ poem is a cross between folk song and formal poetry. Unlike the latter, it comes with a degree of theatre – poetry as showbiz.
A poem about identity and unity and the things
that make us different yet interlink us
I am from land,
from river, sea and mountain.
I am from valley and volcano,
from chilly mountain breeze and steaming lava.
I am from mother, father, uncle and aunty,
proud in traditions, passed through generations.
I am from a wild,
yet structured social organisation,
of stories untold and yet to be told,
lingering in the present and seeping to the future.
Ah, when men are men not mere fools
Then to be men means more than just
Dangling biological tools
Wise young women must hunt for clues
To find those few whom they may trust
Wise men who do not punt with fools
Care and crave those family jewels,
But palm them off if pawn you must,
Haggling the cost more handy tools
Whenever I see a young man
Proudly made of steel
I wonder at the young woman
Sure to make him kneel
Wherever I hear a young man
Loudly praise his great deal
I ponder if a young woman
Might make much of his meal
Whatever a young man
Gladly claims to bear his seal
I tender that a young woman,
Somehow, had made him real
Beneath the old rain tree I wondered
About how this good friend of mine
Standing with its sleeveless branches
Wrinkled skin peeling off from its body
But still smiling to offer a free service
And yet – mankind has been ignorant
It didn’t rain for days
But it stood there braving the sun
It was thirsty for water
But it only gained from the heat
The sun didn’t shine no more
But it stood there braving the cold
It was shivering for warmth
But it only lost weight at night
BOMAI D WITNE
YALTOM Yal-Wai reflected on his life; especially his difficult childhood. He had never known his mother, Apal-wai. She had died from complications soon after his birth.
The untrained village midwives had been unable to save her.
The story of his mother losing blood, being carried on a bamboo stretcher the nearest health centre and meeting death in a decrepit ambulance on the way to hospital was constantly in his mind.
His father Yalkuna told him the midwives had to choose between him and his mother.
Yalkuna had been confused and found a space in a corner of the building where he uttered a quick silent prayer to God. “If you save my wife and son, I will go to church.”
This poem is about gender equality, or rather inequality,
and is a reminder of the unique struggles that women face
in male-dominated societies.
No woman no more
The days of your youth and innocence have faded away
No longer can you hide behind your fathers’ protective barrier
The days of being in your mothers’ care are over
No more carefree days, no more time to laze
No woman no more.
THIS poem, Silent Scream, is about the continuing issue of domestic violence in Papua New Guinea and is a warning to women to be careful with their choice of a partner.
It is also a call on women to opt out of abusive relationships early or seek help to end an abusive relationship before it is too late.
And remember, abuse in a relationship comes in all forms, not just physical.
Is that him coming?
Quiet click of the door
The creak of the stairs
Shuffling on the carpet.
MY POEM, The Machine, is about an old employee and reflects the changing dynamics of our developing modern economy and job market.
The notion of 'diploma disease' has brought with it an escalating level of educational qualification for many jobs.
The poem is also a metaphor for the fast-changing technological landscape and the insatiable demand for software changes that is seemingly designed to keep customers economically enslaved.
A relevant contemporary example of this in Papua New Guinea is mobile phone technology and people’s desire to spend on more expensive mobile phones in order to access more features on one handset – dual-sim, triple-sim and quadruple-sim become the goal.
Personally, I am happy with a phone that can make a call or send a text. If I need to take a photograph of someone or something, I will borrow a camera. Or if I need to access the internet or social media I use my laptop.
We could’ve been different had we not been too hard on ourselves.
We could’ve been like everyone had we stopped trying to be like them.
How in painting our faces have we denied ourselves!
Our pride has become the fountain of our problems.
We could’ve been like everyone had we stopped trying to be like them.
Those bra-less breasts were not a sight of shame.
Our pride has become the fountain of our problems;
We raise our children like animals we cannot tame.
Those bra-less breasts were not a sight of shame,
Even when a cone was all that shielded our manhood.
We raise our children like animals we cannot tame,
Only that they’re wild enough to be good.
IN 2006, when I was doing my undergraduate studies at Divine Word University in Madang, I wrote five poems. It was part of the assessment tasks for a course on contemporary literature in which we were required to write about current issues in Papua New Guinea.
I have never before shared them, except with my lecturer of course.
The beauty of poetry is that it never becomes redundant. The verses in poems are malleable messages of modernity instilled with transcendent transcripts of the values of society and prevalent cultural norms.
The issues I perceived a decade ago are still relevant today at some level of society. As our country develops, old issues still linger, and even as we try to lay old issues to rest, new ones appear.