Poetry

I started writing poems at university way back in the late 60s and early 70s. My unpublished anthology was an exercise book, bursting at the seams, so to speak, with the ravings, reflections, lectures, dreams, etc, of a post-War II generation baby, that lived through the era of hippie-ness, rock and  roll, free love and campus protests. But, alas, that historic collection got washed away in the flood of 1980 when we lived in Lami, near Suva.

The flood, however, did not diminish the penchant to write a verse or two. It may have slowed the tempo, however. But that is more of a reflection of life itself and how it got too complicated over time with issues, responsibilities, duties and conformity.

The following is my meager collection post-1980. “Mead Road” did get published.

Of Separation

[At Mead Road, December 1980]

 

I float along with the music
And move with its rhythm
Oftentimes
I even hum a line or two
But soon the music stops
And reality dawns on me
There is no one to share my alacrity

Sometimes
I’m buoyant as the leaves outside
That sing to the breeze
Othertimes
I want to bathe
In the waterfall that cascades from the rock
After a rain
But then
The breeze stops
And the rain stops
The singing leaves are stilled
And
Where there was waterfall
There is only barren rock

I sit sometimes
In my favourite chair
And face the traffic on Mead Road
I see passersby in gaily mood
In twos or threes
And hear laughter
That drifts in through the sliding doors
I welcome these treasured moments
These are moments I share with them
Though I feel as if I’m intruding

With Ali and KT
The stillness is sometimes broken
Then they’d look at me
With questioning look
And imploring nods
As if to say
We agree
Life can be so much gaity
In the presence of the other three

Oh yea
I can cope alright
I can cook this and that
And
Wash clothes outside whilst the public chat
These don’t bother me
It’s only when the aloneness becomes overbearing
That I crave for some lovin’
And
Souls to break the monotony

In retrospect however
I’m glad we did what we did
For how else would I to feel
Whenever there is a missing link

Mead Road

[At Mead Road, 13 June 1981]

 

I could have sworn
It’s that concrete mixer up the road
I beg your pardon
Well
That deafening roar of the motor
And the grating of its gear
Listen
Hear that screech
That’s when it hits the curb
And –
I beg your pardon
Oh how I wish for Dreamtime

I was saying dear
That life is a disciplne
It ought to –
I beg your pardon
Oh that
That’s definitely the neighbour’s ablutions
That toiletry cacophony really puts me off my beer
It never fails
I beg your –
Oh I wish for Dreamtime

Again dear
I can’t hear
That may be so
But –
Oh damn
That bloody music has started up again
I beg your pardon
Yea some music
We could shut all the windows
Couldn’t we
Oh no
How I wish for Dreamtime

But
Look at it from the parents’ standpoint
We’re always trying to discipline the kids
And –
I beg your pardon
He doesn’t have to toot
Does he
It’s really a racetrack
You know
With all the goings on
We’d best retire
I beg your –
Oh I wish for Dreamtime

Dear
Get me a drop of sherry
I can’t sleep
That bleep bleep is snoring again
Oh I wish for Dreamtime

Inner Conflicts

[19 September 1981]

How can I make sense of it all?
How can I grasp it fully?

For where there is clarity
There is also opacity
Where there is sympathy
There is indifference
Whenever I feel loved
I feel despised also

Man is an embodiment of conflicting interests

When I give to charity
A part of me wants to take back for self-gain
If I expound the virtues of equal opportunities
It’s half to me and half to all others

How can I make sense of it all?

There are those I love
But not my enemies
There are those I long to embrace
In times of woe
But not the perpetrators

Can these conflicts be ever reconciled?
If it remains a pipedream –
How can I make sense of it all?


Work

[19 September 1981]

It may be mundane,
Or infinitesimal as the tiniest of speck
In the vastness of man’s imagination.
Or
It may indeed be of paramount importance.
I’ll persevere regardless
With equal intensity
Till the sun sets
Till my life is spent.

Ode to Chivalry

[Jungfraujoch, Switzerland – August 1986]

I remember the days when knights
would do anything to save a lady in distress
to accompany her across the green
or to lift her across a muddy meadow
Oh, those days of chivalry!

I remember in recent days
when young virile men
would pick up fallen packages
for lady shoppers
Or lend a steely hand to a tottering lady
at the zebra crossing
Oh, those days of chivalry!

When I look back now
I remember quite vividly
occasions
when I had offered handkerchiefs
for crying eyes
A loving embrace to nullify public embarrassment
always worked wonder
All these I ‘d done
for ladies in distress

Be it a soft spot for ladies
or overprotection
or just showmanship
Man did try
to be modern knights with shining armour
where chivalry was wanting

But those days are gone!
Gone are the days when men
rush
to give up their seats in crowded buses
or tubes
Seldom
I’ve seen ladies with children
sway in moving vehicles
And men look the other way
Or pretend to be unaware
Oh, those days of chivalry!

Indeed
where art thou?
Will your days return for damsels in distress?

Unacclimatization

[Interlaken, Switzerland, 21 August 1986]

Tropical flowers are territorial
They blossom
They exude pleasant fragrance
Sunlight makes dazzling their varied colours
The tropic night brings their aroma to passersby

Droplets of monsoon rain may trap
amongst their sweet petals
They soon spring up with added springiness
to the south east trade that follows

Many have composed verses
about their elegance and beauty
Many also
have sailed the seas in search
of their mysticism
But transplant in any way to areas of inclement locale
they just wither and fade away

kaidravuni

[February 1988]

‘dra’ is life’s own latex
Its qualities masked as ‘vuni’ denotes.
My talents are a rarity
That earns praises –
For only those who wait to see.

‘vonu’ live to be 100
On land and sea.
My wisdom grows with respectability.
I’m mother
To multitudinous life-giving eggs –
And can surface
From my sea-walled home,
To chants
To impress.
When defenceles
My tears overwhelm
To cascade to a saddened flow.
Be warned however –
My shell clamps tight
To transmute even the might.

Virtue is synonymous
Not a limb do I waste.
Even my latex coagulates
For a chiefly sustenance;
My carapace brings traders happy days.

‘vesi’ aka intsia bijuga.
My gigantic periphery exudes utility
And hardness translatable as if by midas touch.
My rich golden brown trunks
Have sailed many a seas;
Have gonged dirges of those clubbed in battles gone;
Even a resting pillow for work-weary heads.
In ceremonies,
My rounded hollowness is a receptacle –
For the ubiquitous yaqona.

Crowned with clearest turquoise blue,
Streaked in tints of green, yellowish-white
Is my totemic ‘secala’ –
The fisher of kings –
A h.c. vitiensis in generality
But h.c. eximia for specificity.
With wings beating fast and direct
I’m in commanding flight.
My longish bill
In all its conspicuousness
Extends to lands afar:
Australasia, Asia and Africa.
In fact
I’m equally at home in a burrow
Or in a factory-sooty shelter.

Ki-ki-ki-ki-ki-i-i-ee
When on top of the world
Ki-ki-ki-ki
Hi-ss
Gur-gg-les
When I’m down.
Unsuspecting victims – poor souls
Think I’m loud-mouth.
But am quite amiable really
My aerial fanclub is forever cheery.
Perhaps
Protégé of Colonel Sanders are an exception –
They rage with displeasure – without cause
At my innocent proximity.

I fly the world over
Still
My elevated perch beckons me to return
To muse over my prey –
Four featherless fledglings in the hay.

My forbears war-cried ‘dreu na leba’
In days of hostilities.
When whitecaps furrowed
‘soso i vunileba’ –
Speed of incursion was written in the winds;
The twin hulls of old
Sailed with alacrity
Victorious their return –
A guarantee.

Rain

[Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, 31 July 1989]

Rain in any form
is universally dampening
But man has given it different faces
Each a calendar
For an occasion of import

A little rain
is blessing for a propitious event
To parched stretches of waterless land
it brings tribal dancing
and expectations of bumper crops
And to children
anywhere
a nursery rhyme or two

The monsoon rain
brings untold suffering
with the fury of hurricane winds
It brings devastations
to test man’s resolve

Yesterday
with spring in the air
you brought jollity around the maypole
Today
you drench us to the bone

Passage of Time

[Ljubljana, Yugoslavia, 1 August 1989]

Once
I could outlast drudgery
be it work or idleness
But now
I court inactivity
Each courtship grows longer
as the shadow
at sunset


Unseen Mysteries

[Postojnska jama, Slovenija, Jugolavija, 2 August 1989]

Dark
moody and mysterious
Their unearthly glitter
in the fluorescent light
speaks of timelessness
that is unmatched
by those who come by

Deep
in the bowels of the earth
they stand ready –
these patient sentinels
Their damp spears
moulded by age

Their uniform
of rock elemental hue
changes imperceptibly over time
unseen by naked eyes

Whilst man come and go
these ice-rock soldiers
remain on guard
Their piercing gaze
Unwavering
to the end of time

Sunworshippers

[Poreč, 3 August 1989]

Is it the sun’s magnetism?
Or is it a religious mass hysteria?
I oftentimes wonder
What drives them to extremes?
Being sun-baked to a lobster hue
is masochistic to say the least
And yet
they come in droves
like sheep to the slaughter
Could it be mass exhibitionism
Of man’s banalities?
Perhaps tis only his celebratory orgy
to his liberation from inclement climes

 

Old Ruin

[Camping Lauternacamp, near Poreč, 4 August 1989]

If only I were here
In your days of glory,
To witness your splendour –
A touch of Mediterranean grandeur.

Each stone expertly moulded –
To blend intricateness
And beauty.
Column after column over
Marbled walkways,
Were testimonies to such artisanship.

Your fame reached far and wide
For all civilization was before you.

But how time has changed!
Today
You’re reduced to a mound of dirt.
A lone tree as your crown –
An appropriate reminder
Of a past that once blossomed.

Camping

[Camping Lauternacamp near Poreč, 5 August 1989]

Camping is fun
Beside the sea
It purifies the mind
And clears the debris.

Camping is freedom
To do what is extraordinary
To be unregulated
To a degree.

One could sleep all day
Or swim in the water so blue
One enjoys to rough it
Despite the dirty loo.

Camping is temporary relief from the stresses and strains –
Soon it will be nine to five all over again.

Venice

[Venice, Italy, 8 August 1989]

Once,
Your waterways
And your gondolas
Were figments of my imagination –
When the domes of San Marco
Were disjointed
Mosaics of my dream.
Today,
They are a reality.

An Old Poreč Woman

[Poreč, 10 August 1989]

She sat at a corner
Away from the tourist traffic
As if she was an afterthought.
Her small monkey eyes
Darting from side to side,
Protective over her sad collection
Of worldly goods.
She was totally in black –
A revelation of her widowhood.
Deep furrows lined her shriveled face.
Her toothless licking of an icecream
Seemed mechanical
And devoid of any enjoyment.
Her melancholy disposition
Spoke volumes of a lifetime of
Hardwork and childrearing,
under testing circumstances.
She was a picture of anachronism,
That, I did conclude.
But where old and new blend unceasingly
She only projected animated harmony.

Amphitheatre

[Pula, near Poreč, 11 August 1989]

Stonewalled –
Huge, grey boulders these are –
It rises upward to the darkening Pula skies,
Halting rain temporarily
As if to emphasize a point.
Its symmetrical arches beckon visitors
To the arena,
Which today is full of plastic orangey
Chairs –
Some broken –
In radiating formation
From an hurriedly-constructed wooden stage,
On which present-day actors frolick,
But where only the braves
And the deads
Once stood.

I hear a tear-trodden plea.
I turn as she runs naked,
Her mouth is caked in red dust.
She cannot speak
Only her bloodshot eyes
Emit the deathly message.

The African man-eater pounces.
Once
Twice
And it’s all over.
Only the fish on her forearm
Remains distinguishable
Below the blood and chewed-up bones.

Her pleading resounds
Louder than before –
Death has no barrier!

But, alas, tis only the megaphonic plea
Of a souvenir seller,
Intent for a last bargain
Before the onset of an impending
Downpour.

vinaka

[2006]

on occasions
your generosity overwhelms
it comes in many forms
large and small
in gifts
kindly messages and other expressions
but
alas
no acknowledgement is received
you wonder whether ‘tis all worthwhile
but i languish in my tardiness
i wish to confess
for i want to say vinaka
i’ve been meaning to
but……
well, there’s really no excuse
but now
i want to redress this blemish
vinaka
may seem ordinary
in day-to-day parlance
ubiquitous too
which may diminish its value
on this occasion however
it comes directly
from the heart
but more
it comes with ‘special’
indelibly engraved
‘tis from me to you
grant acquiescence i implore
as singular dispensation
should there be contrariness
this debt of gratitude
remains
vinaka

Loss of a Grandfather

I sat at a distance from Natavasara
Alone
A smooth rounded stone
On the foundation of Nukucagina – the adjacent ‘yavu’
Provided a perch for self-reflection
At four years old
I didn’t understand the protocol
I saw however
Groups of adults
Going in and out of Natavasara
I didn’t hear any funebrial wail
Silence and solemnity
Were deafening – in a manner of speaking
Nature’s elements in their finest
It seemed
Had conspired for a contemplative farewell – to the Beyond
Much later
An all-embracing hug from aunt Salote
Woke me up from my reverie
Her reflective parting musing
Still rings true today as it was then
“Isa, Tukana, who will now provide
The grandfatherly care you have become so used to?”

First Date

In retrospect
It was an anticlimax
But I couldn’t have done it any other way
I didn’t know how
I finally got the courage
To ask a girl out to the movie – for the first time
Mid-way through secondary school
Coming from a family
Where anything to do with the opposite sex was taboo
This was unprecedented courage

We arranged rendezvous at the Suva bus station
For Saturday matinee at the Lilac Theatre
Afterwards
It would be back to the same station
For au revoir
Period
That was the extent of my date

Simplicity – it may be
But
I soon got the jitters
My courage flew out the window
In the last minute
I invited a cousin – to be a chaperon
He agreed without a hint of a second thought

He would not be so much a chaperon – in the strictest sense of the word
I would ensure propriety on my part
And my date would too
But
From bus station to bus station
There would be hours-long of speech bubbles to fill
I panicked of being tongue-tied
I opted thus
For safety first

In retrospect
I didn’t even get to hold her hands
In the close intimacy of the cinema!

Vunilagi 

Once
With toes in the wet sand
I could see it – with the innocent lens of a sun-baked village lad
It was all around me
I was imprisoned by its embrace
The only means to reach out and comprehend
What it was and what might be beyond it
Was to dream and reflect

Later
I did travel far and wide
The privilege was sublime
And learned that every destination has its own vunilagi
Its own story to tell
Being unique and illusive
I never once traversed it
But the more I travelled, the more vunilagi that presented themselves

In my advanced age
Finally
I have desire to grasp at my vunilagi
My foreordained destination
And understand its hidden messages
Thanks to the butterfly
Whose fluttering effects have plotted a pathway to it
Imbued with God’s providence

In my boyish innocence
I had failed to see the pathway that had beckoned
Writ large and clear
Not in the sands of time
Not on the silvery seas
But in the vunilagi itself: the root of the pathway to Heaven

To Jone – Emerging from the Convulsions of History

 Born
After the historical convulsions of 1829,
When Rewa assumed domination over Northern Kadavu.
But,
At the local level,
It was simply the invaders overwhelming
A settler group.
The Rewans versus a Ravuravu clan.

As was the format of similar past forays,
The invaders aligned with the ruling family
To consolidate their authority.
Ravuravu and the Rewan dynasties
Now linked permanently.

Later,
In the late 1830s,
Belligerency was softened with touches of Christianity,
Sanctioned for all posterity.
You then grew up
Having traversed such tranquillity.

Your new faith was exemplary.
You opted for baptism;
But,
Your adopted name was devoid of meaning
Of what you were.

Nevertheless,
You prevailed.
Your authority was not in doubt.
There was unity
Despite the bipartisan history.

Your grave is still marked today.
A Tavola tree shades the way.
It is only a stone throw
From Ravuravu’s own grave.
A constant reminder of the eminent bond
That connected you then;
And has continued to date
And will do so beyond.


Simione Ravana’s Greatest Calling

I

A child is born
The island and beyond
Is awash with Christian fervour
Against all odds
But the timing is providential

Hostilities have ended
It’s just as well
People are tired
War efforts have been rudely enervating

Enlightened teachers now spread the Good News
Legions of heathens readily see the Light
That their chiefs have glimpsed before them

Some others
Seek salvation in Christ
In desperation
They see intrusion of devastating diseases
Brought on by strangers from afar
As penance for their dark polytheistic past

Some can read the Bible
They now understand
And they can study the same
In an institution
If so inclined

II

The child thrives
Under his father’s tutelage
To carry the weight of the vanua and the church
With equal measure

His father
A convert from heathenism
But adroit in the affairs of the vanua
Is well able to balance church and traditional duties
His dynasty assured

III

The child thrives
Under his father’s tutelage
To carry the weight of the vanua and the church
With equal measure

The child however
The product of enlightened parentage
And of the early footprints of enlightenment itself
Chooses the path of the cross

IV

The child
Son of his father
Now deeply immersed in his Heavenly Father
Opts to be a catechist
A mission for life
A dedication that sees no bounds

But alas
What’s to become of your dynasty?


Epilogue

Simione Ravana was the first from Dravuni to be posted out as a Methodist catechist in 1885, ten years after the first catechist, Ilai Tuilawa, was posted to Dravuni in 1875. He did not return to live on Dravuni. He died and is buried in Naqara, his wife’s village.


Livai Veilawa – Living in Self-Exile

Born outside his village,
In 1889.
For the first seven years of life,
He remained a stranger to his kin.
For he was a ward of his father,
On posting as a catechist,
On the move constantly;
Four missions – four villages in all.
And that was even before self-exile!

In 1896,
It was time to return home.
God’s calling came to pass.
His father opted instead
For the tranquillity of his wife’s village,
And not the turmoil of his own creation.
For the seven-year old,
It was an imposition
That his young mind probably couldn’t comprehend.

For the next 29 years,
Livai’s life was one of grateful acceptance
And of custodianship of his vasu.
Throughout the period,
His fortunes never faltered.
His adopted life
Never lacked the basics.
He found employment outside his adopted kin.
He sailed across oceans upon oceans
To the opposite end of the globe;
Perhaps a first for his kin,
In the pursuit of defence of king and country abroad.

But his vasu still beckoned on his return
In 1919.
It was time to start a family.
Livai found in Lanieta a wonderful spouse
And kindred spirit.
But their first attempt at starting a family
Proved stillborn.
The woes of long displacement
From home
Were taking their toll.

Their second attempt proved fortuitous.
A son was born.
In 1924.
But the sense of enforced alienation
Was lengthening
Like the shadow at sunset.
Brought home after having to bury both parents
In borrowed plots.

Out of the blue,
An unexpected delegation appeared.
Return to base was its dispatch.
So, finally, in 1925,
At 36 years old,
And 40 years after his father began his catechism,
Livai lived on Dravuni;
For the first time ever
In his life.

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One Comment Add yours

  1. Vono says:

    Wow!!!

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