Manilamen: the ‘Outsiders’ within

A Broome pearling lugger

Bones lay buried forty fathoms deep,

oh, if only the turquoise ocean can speak!

The wizard wind carries lonesome melodies

echoing memories of the past hundred years —

of schooners, luggers, pearl shells,

and waves of settlers called Manilamen,

washed ashore in the Torres Straits and Broome,

their descendants and offsprings

of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders

and new arrivals on their trail

sing songs that graft new tunes into old,

the ancient song lines, their tracks on rocks and soils

of mixed identities fused,

the red grainy soil stirs up old memories

that honour forebears who dived

into the depths of the continent’s soul

with black women who took the lead,

embracing mixed traditions,

and their gaze never quite turned away

from their roots, the distant islands of a dreamtime

from where once their ancestors sailed away.


Photo (pearling lugger): Tom McDonough, c1930, Broome;  Peta Stephenson (2007) The Outsiders Within: Telling Australia’s Indigenous-Asian Story.


stone z

Stone, standing on the sand,

all alone.
Petals blew away,
embracing the cold breeze.

My eyes see
only in single focus.
I feel my heart’s broken string.

Outside, I am seen

The walk

Fitzroy crossing

Time is not in our hands some say.
We find ourselves in strange places,
companions appear in our walk in life
who share our time space until the experience
of togetherness gradually blurs
into capsules of memories.

Life is the unfolding of mystery,
the unknown that walks us,
and by living truth,

we play a part in courting revelations
that seep slowly in our hearts like a gift bestowed
or strike us like lightning

when we are not looking,
leading to a new kind of knowing
that springs from looking inward

so that we get to see our part
in the universe of the meaning we seek,

part of the integrated and interacting whole
that does not keep still yet brings us complete stillness.

How can one believe that our breath of life
is a random moment, a happening that has no source,
a black hole of sheer emptiness?
Light and darkness dance the becoming,
and we live a paradox like a puzzle to unravel, synthesise
and resolve, for seekers seek to become a citizen
of the ground of being.

Like a parable, revelation breaks open
the path to awakening.

The human spirit and the Word dissolve into One.

David returns to Angoram: eulogy from Deborah


Mi laik tok ‘hello’ long olgeta men meri isanap hir tudei. Tenk yu tru long kam bungin mi.

Forpela ten yirs bipo, mi sanap long graun bilong PNG. Angoram emi start long niupela hap long laif bilong mi.  Mi bin lusim ples bilong mi olikolim  Philippines. Nau mi kam long niupela kantri mi na David niupela marit. (married).

PNG em ibin adaptim man bilong mi. Em ibin istap 18 yirs long PNG. Tasol spirit bilong em istap olgeta taim long Angoram.

Wanpela apinun mi tupela iwokabaut long Angoram nau David imarkim wanpela ples em laik wokim haus long dispela hap.

Tasol long dispela taim, wind bilong senes ikamap. PNG iredi long kisim self gavament na independence. Kontrak bilong David iluk olosem bai ipinis. Nau em imas lusim dispela ples emi klos  tu long hart bilong em.

Em iwok tenpela yir long malaria control officer long Public Health Department. Bihain, David na mi imas lusim PNG. Long dispela dei, mipela ilusim Angoram. Mi no inap long lusim tingtink long dispela dei.

David yet ilaik go isi-isi. Em ino laik bai ol man meri isori long dispela dei. Mipela ilusim Angoram olgeta. Hart bilong em iheavy tru. Tasol long dei, mipela itokim kAmi Tasol.  taim mipela ikamap long ples balus, mipela ilukim  airstrip, ipulap long ol man meri bilong Angoram ikam long tok ‘goodbye’ long David na mi. Em isori tumas long lusim ples bilong em.

David na mi isit daun gud long 41 yirs marit. Mipela ihamamas long sindaun gud.

Tasol bihain long porpela tenwanyir (41) yirs, em ibin go ontap long ples bilong papa God. Em ilaikim PNG tumas. Nau em ino lusim dispela laik.

Mi save long dispela, bikos taim emi retire long wok long education and teacher Librarian, em istap wokim blog long computer putim piksa bilong PNG long Facebook. Plenti man meri bilong PNG nau olgeta hap em ibin lukim Facebook bilong em. Nau em  iraitim wanpela istori – nem bilong istori, ‘ Sepik Blu Longpela Muruk’.

Taim em ilapun  liklik, em bak long Angoram tupela taim na bungim (meet up) ol pren bilong em.

David em iskul long St Ignatius College na em ibin graduate long 1954. Porpela ten yirs bihain mi bin tok tok long reunion bilong ol students. Nau mi tokim ol, taim David ilusim skul, em ibim wok na liv long PNG. Mipela ibin raisim tupela pikinini man, Andrei na David Augustus. Nau tupela ibig pela pinis. So hap (heart) bilong David istap wantaim mi.

Nau mi laik bai David islip long graun bilong Angoram.  Nau mi laik bringim bak spirit bilong David wantaim mi long Angoram. Mipela startim marit life long hir. Nau  mi tupela ikam bak.

So tudei mi tingtink bai David imas istap long Angoram.

Mi laik tok tenk yu long God long bringing mi na David na ol men meri ibung wantaim long Angoram. Bekos mi em wokabaut wantaim em long life bilong em. Nau mipela hope spirit bilong em igo long gudpela ples.

Bai mipela prey:

Papa God, pikinini, na Spiritu Santo,  mipela itingtink long David tudei, long taim emi istap long Angoram. Mipela itenking yu long life bilong em.

Nau mipela igivim spirit bilong em bilong yu nau em istap olgeta wantaim yu.


Taim bilong tambuna

New Ireland women dancers

Ancient faces, phases, continuity and change
teetering on the balance,
Melanesian Festival performances showcased
by masked men and women,
their colourful feathers waving
with the wind as they peered
through tiny painted hole eyes of old,
seeing from extant tradition
the external world’s shifting stage.
Flashing, lightning speed digital
smart phones recording for posterity
the interplay of cultures now and then,
a backward glance, then eyes looked forward
to a symbolic desire to preserve
‘taim bilong tambuna’.
Complexity/simplicity fused in live
performances of diverse cultures at risk,
the earth shuddered, faith trembled
at the prospect of a dance to extinction,
columns of bare feet pounded the earth,
dust flew, drums beating collective heartbeats
that synchronised with the rhythm of singsing,
the human species at edge
now with cultural unrest!

Finding refuge

my prayer

The train of thought meanders,
my right brain spins out of control.
My left, on dead ground zero,
tired of trying, rejection shadowing
the daffodils in my imaginary hideaway,
I’m not broken yet, but my pathway is hazy,
I live inside constructed bubbles
that burst unconscious dreams,
ride high on endless rainbows
that no one has ever seen,
life challenges life, my eyes
wet from time to time from empathy,
refugees that find no refuge,
lands for survival sought,
always oceans away,
the mysterious abyss swallows
dead expectations, occasionally
washed away young bodies
reach the shorelines
and pull the heartstrings of all.
Are you surprised to find the ground

of our humanity?
My train of thought meanders,
light flickers from a tunnel:
a call of loss, that spaceless space of thoughtless thought
warns when we hear our otherness scream!

Liyan dance

Cave spirit rising

Apprehensive, she talked hesitantly. Her words drew an image of a child sitting on a mother’s shoulder, her picture of the true genealogical source of the maternal trace line, the identity stamp of belonging to country. My question was ‘who can speak for Country’. As we speak, at that moment, she said that we were living in the eternal Dreaming…that her ancestral spirits were listening to each word she spoke. Her eyes studied my face, our eyes from distant past met, liyan danced with trust. Her liyan told her that she could trust me. My spirit dwelt in in-betweenness, my liyan has no declaration to make. My deep well simply oozes with respect …for ‘difference’.

A songbird with no song

the door_0080

My head was lost in the woods
In the thickets, in the depths of the seas.

I left my heart behind,
My soul was buried in the sand dunes.

I was breathing but hardly alive,
My shadow following me.

I now walk on the ashes of a lost pursuit,
The tipping point is reached,

My spirit returns.

What next, what now, well does it matter still
If anyone wants to hear

a songbird with no song.

Between songs: for David

sunset ocean

A pause between songs, a rest for contemplation,
And the next movement is never an empty space
But the breath of life, a signature on the sand,
No doubt, you were here, but the wind swept
The sand away into another world,
You have filled the void with memories,
So the music of your other presence
Fills the air I breathed,
There was no yesterday nor tomorrow,
Only the call for awakening
To honour each precious moment.

Alternative construct

Meteora from top_0046

A spider’s web.

I weave invisible threads and a pattern emerges

like a kaleidoscope of dazzling colours

that refract my narrative.

The implosion creates an inner puzzle.

Do I know what you don’t know;

don’t I know what you know?

Can we bridge our island of understanding?

Knowledge has shape only if it fits into a mould,

that mould is a mirage.

We destroy it when it falls out of fashion;

if we keep it, it becomes archival,

a temple of the mind.

We wrestle with the real

and truth slips from the hand.

Our elusive dream is to conquer the unconquerable,

vanquish doubt, pronounce certainty,

and say, we are value-free.

We create a church, illusory,

but it habituates and secures thought.

My story seeks but promises no answer.

I am a web.