I took a picture of this poster pasted on a wall in Newtown where I live. Chalk messages next to the poster to ‘Close Manus’ and to ‘Close Nauru’ are voices on the ground from people who want our government to take notice. People like me who do not want to be an accessory to the inhumane treatment of our fellow human beings. I wrote a poem sometime this year entitled, Navel-gazing on a seat of comfort. Part of that poem seems apt for the theme of my photo:
‘…while refugees in Manus face a bleak future after outliving the challenges of the open seas and being detained onshore by wily officials determined to zip close tight state border security, leaving survivors with no end on sight, condemned to live inside their heads, their hope flickering out like a dying candle, their lips sewn in, some lives prematurely snuffed out in self-immolation while governments take their time, wait and see, play with chess pieces of human lives. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, peace remains illusory while hospitals and welfare aid workers become new targets for exploding new technological devices. Oh how cheap life has become!…
And then, I finished off with:
‘But it is hard to pontificate from my armchair of comfort in Sydney’s inner west while sipping latte at a shopping complex, flicking through magazines that sell dreams of fashion, latest style and culinary delights inaccessible no doubt to our fellow brothers and sisters who are struggling to escape the insanity that has befallen our fractured state of being…apart from navel-gazing.’
Early this month at a conference in Fremantle, I heard a poet speak of his experience in one of these cells, the new Gulag. I’m no longer navel-gazing. This man, was fleshing out his thoughts based on his woeful experience even though he still faces an uncertain future, holding onto nothing but a bridging visa. His voice moved my spirit. His spirit could not rest until his fellow prisoners are released.
And how is it that we can rest?
I quote extracts from his poem, My dreams are dying
My life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly. I cannot breathe freely…I am like a caged bird…My wings clipped and my feet tired. I sing of my freedom but no one hears my dry voice. I am tired but I still try to sing of freedom.
And from his other poem, Who knows?
…Who knows my heart?
Who knows I ache with suffering?
Who knows my loneliness?
Who knows I am tired of being tired?
Who can comfort me?
My heart is searching for peace – still I cannot find it.
Who knows my heartache?
When wings are broken can a bird fly?
When there is a big storm, can the boat survive?
Who knows my heartache?…
Indeed, who knows? We (the State that represents our people) have broken his wings. Why can’t we let him fly. If we are free to fly, so should he. Sometime ago, I have taken this picture of the flight of a bird at Coogee beach. We are all gifted with the freedom to realize our potential. Like this bird, we all want to fly, and let our dreams come true. We have to let this man heal his broken wings.
In another poem, Weeping and Mourning, he wrote:
…When shall my eyes
by the wonder of happiness?
When shall my heart overflow, and laugh
as a free full life
in a beautiful world
is offered it
Until then I’m weeping and mourning