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.
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.
A poem about PNG women challenging engrained assumptions.
In my more contemplative years, I learned of the phrase “empty drums made a lot of noise”. Deaf, I was at the time, a bit too young to understand but I still hear it now.
Behind Steel Bars
Steel bars line the edge of this world.
Clad, cold, courage,
rust bearing steel bars.
Vestige reminder –
the colonial knights armour,
there is faith in steel.
Guard conscience, pray they
from perils that lay await.
Still, idle imagination loiters.
Give colour to grey steel bars.
Keep safe, this world.
Guard against, the light of night
Come what may.
Tall – stand picket.
Poke sharp, the heavens soft whites.
Reach high, the blue distant moun-tains
Or is it sky?
Picket steel bars,
Yet, the darkness in day
pierces the safety of this
@ Hans Lee
Where I wrote this
This piece was written in one sitting at the Airways Hotel in Port Moresby. I was looking for place to sit, read and write and this was the only (third) space that I could really work in. I highly recommend it, though I don’t know how busy it gets here – I was lucky enough to have it all to myself (and the security guard) while I wrote.
As you may have guessed it already, coffee definitely had something to do with this post. Nothing like a bit of caffeine to get the creative juices flowing.
Why I wrote it
At the time of writing, I was reading Dr. Steven Winduo’s book, The Unpainted Mask, which had weaved through the stories these ideas of objectivity and reflection. Telling his story from the first person, he observed the irony of the residents in Port Moresby who work to be part of a life that was ironic, bordering moronic, according to him. People who work so hard to keep an image that is expensive to maintain (the masks).
It made me reflect on where I was at in that moment of writing, looking out into the distant natural landscape through steel bars designed to protect me. From what? Well that was just it, I didn’t know. Maybe it was to protect my conscience from whatever was out there. In the distant was the cloud and blue mountain (or sky) but in the foreground was the protruding steel picket fence.
I was taking refuge behind these fences to carry out the art of being this version of me. It is definitely part of this Journey Home for me. I can’t say anything because I am (unfortunately) part of this group, but I shed no regret for this lifestyle. I wouldn’t be who I am, writing what I write, if it were not for my experiences.
I’ll leave it at that.
@ Hans Lee