Man, meri, pikinini
waite man, black man, olgeta lain.
Passerby’s pass on by
in quick strides,
shunned, avert eyes,
seeing what can’t be unseen
– Lukim em,
em sanap na lukim
She squints to look.
There, beyond the glass of safety
laid barren hope, dreams, ruined.
Despair, etched deep into frail wrinkles
like the cracked path they led,
leading them down here to where the crumbling mortar, hanging from moss ridden bricks was their clothes in tethers, pealing from their damp skins.
Pasim ai, karamapim nus, sakim het.
The putrid stench of failure,
hopelessness seeks desperation,
rising from the viscous substance
crawling to makeshift drains
tunnelling beneath her feet,
Saitim ai, inap lo’ luk luk,
Her pace harkens for quick strides,
her squint disappears behind dark shades.
Her phone had seen enough.
When you awake from the slumbers of sleeps silky caress,
Let the creaking door remind you that not all is made to be perfect,
Let the dull light of twilight creeping in remind you that the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ is not simply a metaphor,
Let the silence before the hum of day remind you that you still have your voice,
And let the voice of others, familiar and no so, remind you that yours is never alone.
But be patient. Don’t look for fast feet too soon. The head knows where it needs to be.
If shudders should ripple under cloudiness of thought, it is your mind casting lines into rough waters seeking a memory. Be patient. Remember that storms sometimes live in tea cups and tea cups can be deep wells you keep going back to draw from. It will be there when you forget.
And if you should fall into that dark place of your mind, I hope you find the walls of solitude lined with cobwebs, filtering your thoughts. May it help you find clarity as surly as the drip, drip, dripping is the last sound before the storm ends. You will always find your way out.
So when you close your eyes and feel the monotonous pulse of beeping contraptions, let it alas remind you that life has it’s own rhythm that need not to be tamed but nurtured.
It may not make sense to you right now, but remember that in the best of all possible worlds, we are often never where we want to be but always where we are meant to be.
by Hans Lee
on roof tops.
in down pipes.
Pitters of patters
Violent in motion,
– be banks, on streets.
to drain pipes.
Labourious is torrent
– be rivers, like Styx.
my wild heart.
The memory of pitters of patters.
The violence of wild water,
when rain drops go
by Hans Lee, 2019
Where Have All The Bataflais Gone?
Lo’ citi* ol igat olgeta samting
Lo’ citi ol i no sot lo wanpla samting
Igat rot, igat wara, igat kapa haus
Igat lo, igat stoa,igat haus sik na skul
Pulim ol man meri i lusim bus giraun ikam
Pulim ol ikam sindaun lo’ bikples taun
Na lusim ol samting blo’ ples giraun
Lo wokim citi bai igat olgeta samting
Na citi bai i nonap sot lo wanpla samting
Bai olgeta mangalim** nating nating
Olsem na citi ol givim nem “Beautiful”
Tasol “Beautful” blo’ em i woklo’ lus nating nating
Ol lip blo’ diwai hat lo’ holim strong
Pundaun wan wan lo antap i kam daun
Namel lo’ ol, em ol i pundaun tu
Wanpla wing, narapla wing, na liklik binatang tu
Samting blo giraun blo’ pulim ai blo’ ol lain
I lus nating na nau nogat moa binatang.
Citi igat, na igat, na igat, planti samting
Tasol lo tete mi hat lo painim wanpla bataflai
by Hans Lee
*Citi- Tok Pisin spelling is Siti
**Mangalim – really desire or envy something
In this poem, I really tried to ask a question plainly ‘Where have the bataflais gone?’ Something I learned early on in my writing journey was that a piece did not start on the first line. It starts with the title. Similar to performance poetry, a piece starts when the performer takes the stage, so in that vein, it carries forth the reasoning that a written poem should start at the first word.
The rest of the poem explores this idea of the urban environmental malaise under the pressures of urbanisation. I decided to use Tok Pisin to localise the content. More to that, I use the ideas of leaving the village (ples) to come to the urban environment (bikples taun) as part in the third stanza. I did that because the first two stanza’s are there to give the reader an idea of what these internal rural-urban migrants envisage the city (citi) to be.
I’ve littered many techniques in this poem, some of which I am still working to perfect. If you can, try spot the stanza where I introduce this idea of the unbalancing seesaw. That’s what I call the point in the poem or story where an idea is introduced that unbalances the poem.
Note I have used citi here instead of the accurate siti to give my non-Tok Pisin readers a hint about the context of the poem.
When a tower rises.
Where towers rise.
Cast tall shadow
Upon tall shadows.
Hiding reasons from
Making of empty.
Void of place.
The streets are empty.
What makes a city come alive?
Or rather, I should ask why
– Why would we want a city to come alive?
Maybe the second question is easier to answer.
If you haven’t already, you should follow the Guardian’s Cities’ series talking about all things cities – a fantastic resource for spreading thoughtful insights about our urban built environment.
A recent article from the series that caught my attention featured a compilation of stories about people walking their neighbourhoods in their respective cities. As a self confessed urbanist, I revelled in these stories, reminiscing about the days I used to walk all the time.
This poem has the potential to cause some grief so please take with a grain of salt.
Originally Published on Twitter:
Dear Pom Siti Road Vendors,
Thank you for the smuk na buai.
The galip nut.
Thank you for the deer antler.
The Nius-Pepa na GoGo Cola.
The 6 ft mirror.
Steering wheel cover, Dark Specs na Air Freshner.
Always and forever,
A poem about PNG women challenging engrained assumptions.