Six Sonnets: Papua New Guinea

The Bee People

for Rob Kall

Well, let’s face it, they’re terrifying to behold,
all decked out in native angry paint, black and white,
and recalls some Bond film about voodoo and gold
in post-colonial Jamaica, calypso right.
Yaphet Kotto as Idi Amin must be near,
and look how smart they march, the army of children,
as if Joe Kony himself was secretly there
to supervise the raid, to point, and say, “Kill them.”
Of course the march is all a pale male’s phantasy,
filled with spooks will be spooks motifs and melodies
imposed on them by Mighty Whitey’s reality —
neoliberalism and assorted felonies.
Still, it’s a fun afternoon watching the singsing:
implied headhunters and fops bringing their blingbling.

Manus Island: A Kurd Absurd

When Kurd Behrouz Boochani jumped the migrant queue,
trying to sneak into Oz on a leaky boat,
he was caught and shipped to Manus Island to rue
his freedom-thieving ways. The Left saw him as a goat,
and Behrouz savaged the Aussie reputation
as First World humanitarians. Terrorists!
he said. Barbarians! A criminal nation.
And it became a sordid saga full of twists.
The detention center was a foul dump, he’d write
by Whatsapp texts to “mates” in Oz who had his back;
it became a prized book in Oz. Go fly a kite.
I don’t wish to move there anyhow. More cash for quack.
He’s a Kiwi now. Just as well Oz rejected him.
The Right would have made the Left beat him to death. Grim.

Teaching Hitchcock: Don’t Kill the Messenger

I taught English in PNG and in one class,
Film Studies, we studied Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho.
(It was just an excuse to watch movies. That crass.)
They were local kids. One girl smiled like a gecko,
causing me to double-take. A wonderful group,
as they say. Elite brats from the Highlands. Wantoks.
Eager to learn, by their looks (or was I just soup?).
I don’t really know; hate to place them in a box.
The shower scene is everyone’s favorite bit:
the swirling blood, the lifeless eye, the violins,
but these kids really light up and get into it,
counting out loud the knife stabs, Tony Perkins grins.
That class loved me, and I them, The Prophet, Bob Marley,
I’d say, during Music Studies, culture parley.

Sailing, Sailing the Sandy Sea

We called our “yacht” Sibel after a Turk we knew,
a sweet doctor with a sweet husband, and a brat;
we’d hoped they’d come visit, but it wasn’t to be.
It didn’t really matter once we were asea,
pulling corks and drowning in SP suds, the twat
who served as skipper lording it over the crew,
tacking this way and that, our heads ducking the boom,
successfully most of the time, in a rhythm
on swabby waves sailing for some far tortuga,
I avoided the reputed one-pieced cougar
probably on the prowl (you saw she had a system),
some old Circe ready to lead me to my doom.
At Sand Island all the soused expats waved and shouted
while I laid back in the shade — cork popped — and scouted.

Cargo Cult Capitalist Gods in Tees

You’d be surprised how often the gods are crazy,
fumbling around in straitjacket clouds, seeking Coke
bottles to put rockets in to fill the dark skies
with their spray graffiti and constellated lies;
I’m AlphaOmega, they roar, all chicken choke,
shakin bakin self-stim lightning rods Scorcese.
The marching bands come filled with jingles and jive to sell
the latest paradigm shift in men’s underwear
and the cappies are feeling and sowing their oats.
The grand Wagnerian tragedy starring goats —
Tristan and Isolde — inspires ancestral fear
of tabooistical totems no one can quell.
In Moresby locals don discarded slogan tees
sent there by the millions over the polluted seas.

Mr. Shit Runs for Office

Mr. Shit tired of the Lesser of Two Evils
approach to running for office the world embraced
as modern democracy, Pepsi or Coke laced
with oxy supplied by Sackler sales rep devils.
His logo: Rodin’s Thinker sitting on a loo,
processing toxins and gases, as if to say,
Why be full of shit if you do not have to be?
He was extremely popular — and handsome, too.
But the PNG puppet masters (read Aussies)
schemed and wantoked and banned his nickname Mr. Shit
without that appellation he was just another twit
running for office saddle for the high hossies.
Mr. Shit was way too honest for his own good
and they flushed his revolution and called him rude.

John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelancer based in Australia.  He is a former reporter for The New Bedford Standard-Times.