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The mortaring of the market - An October to remember

LEONARD FONG ROKA

THE DAY BEFORE THE PNGDF troops landed at Tunuru Catholic Mission, I came into town from Kupe and planned to return the next morning for market.

Early next morning the others left for market but I decided to stay back.

We lost our girls, who we would meet at the market for nothing but admiration. They were scattered like litter by the rain of bombs from Tunuru.

An October to remember

Arawa was calm; but the rolling waves on the beach were not ours;
they were theirs, those men who came from New Guinea to take over our land.

The sky was theirs; those flying mechanical bats that came from New Guinea to fire guns on us.
And kill our men, women and future children for nothing
But to take over our land.

So we sang their songs as they said unto us over the few years;
Sitting ducks staring them snailing from the northern end of our country
Till that October night; till that October they made us run for the bush.

That 1992 October, that market day; we all dreamt to meet a sweet Rorovana girl
And gobble her cassava cake for love.

But our Arawa had a strike from Tunuru that October dawn;
Those men of the sky and the sea from New Guinea rained bombs on us.

Recklessly, they bombed us to kill us for our land; they bombed us to rid our dignity;
They bombed us to eradicate our identity of Solomon;
they bombed to show us how lethal they were in tribal warfare so we faded.

That sad October morning; that market day in warring Arawa,
Toboinu was stocking her greens for the Arawa market at Topinang;

Measinu was making love to her Kitong on Namira Street;
Kingkobo was peeing on the lawn at Kaukapan Street;
And the politician was snoring at Amino Road and hell dawned down hard.

The New Guineans wanted us dead
So that they could take over our land, dignity and identity.

Thus, Toboinu stood idle as her Bougainville trembled;
Measinu and Kitong ran naked in their separate ways for the hills;
Kingkobo kept peeing till sunset
And the politician woke sunbathing for there was not a roof in the abode.

So, they all ran into the bush; over the rivers and valleys for the Crown Prince Range
So that the New Guinean could not find
And kill them for their land, dignity and identity.

That October dawn in 1992 Arawa,
Mortar bombs!

Comments

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Phil Fitzpatrick

Unique diction is only the half of it I think. I really enjoy the way Leonard lacerates the English language to such great effect.

Papua New Guinean writers who claim English as a second language really have a great advantage over writers in English speaking countries.

If we played around with the language like he does, we'd be lampooned for pretentiousness and, worse, accused of bad grammar. Not that some bad grammar doesn't make great literature.

I was trying to think of whom he reminded me of after reading this poem. Then it came to me.

James Joyce!

Michael Dom

I'm liking this prose Leonard. It's well developed. That openning line is inspired and the story build up is palpable.

"So we sang their songs..." is a profound metaphor.

The tapestry of this story is fresh and alive, drawn from a normal day that ends in disaster.

"That 1992 October, that market day; we all dreamt to meet a sweet Rorovana girl / And gobble her cassava cake for love."

Excellent and unique diction, smooth alliteration and lusty imagery rolled into a simple statement straight from the heart. Classic LFR.

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