by Sudesh Mishra
A fish plops into the minting river;
Our sovereign, the sun, has found his cortege.
We live in a time of death; the fever,
The ague of life is there at every stage,
At every stage the dread of officers
With ‘defect slips’ inscribed on their faces,
And casket-makers who smile like lechers
At the obituaries in tomorrow’s papers.
We live in an age of wrath, where even
The humble faucet salivates beyond
Salvation, and the secular heaven
Is caviar-talk with the local beau monde.
This is the era of dark acquiescence,
Of traitor and yes-man, of human skulls
That rhyme across the tyrant’s shelf. The dark sense
Of such dark scenes invades our dancing halls
And our shopping malls – till perforations
Shape your child’s dreams of cheddar and Chile.
And still the rain pitchforks, and still relations
Arrange for endless vacations in Sydney.
And we who engage from cool balconies
The reef-lathering sea and think ourselves
Hapless castaways (while others drag their knees
To the parapets of their migrant selves),
Have endured the terror of Gothic potholes,
And resent those who leave Sukuna Street
For basement flats and nights in cabs with Poles
Looking for pogromed fathers, and their feet.
All pronouncements end with the human breath,
Even so mulish poets burn the midnight oil,
Scribbling satires about this gutter-rat
Or that businessman. The fact of their toil
Worries both silverfish and secret police,
While sleight-of-hand entrepreneurs siphon-off
Foreign currency to a foreign niche.
O my country, O my brochured write-off,
O re-usable teabag oozing tough guys
And exiles – how we have botched everything:
From politics to preservatives. The lies
That we cultivate will invariably bring
Us to that tragic impasse, when exile
Means more than a missing toothbrush confirming
A lover’s desertion; when the black file
Gapes back at you in this age of our damning.
Sudesh Mishra teaches literature at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji.
First published in Trapped: a collection of writing from Fiji, Fiji Writers Association, Suva, 1992. The poem reflects the situation in Fiji after the military takeover.
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