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I am innocent but responsible


An entry in The Crocodile Prize
Kina Securities Poetry Award

I was born fully naked
Without a cloth on my wrinkled body
Seeing scrotum hanging down in between my legs
My delighted mother proclaimed in ecstasy to the whole world
She had caught a bird in the twilight of the night
I was innocent but responsible

As a child growing up in the Highlands culture
My dad had other thoughts; he wanted to have many wives
Big name, prestige, power and village leadership
Dominated his inner being
He neglected me and mum completely
Subsequently, mum and I took refuge in mum’s homeland
I was innocent but responsible

I grew up through the tender love, care and hard-work of my mother
Without dad’s presence
I missed out on important village customs, values, skills and knowledge
I grew up without the essential upbringing that an average child received
I was innocent but responsible

Through the vision and hard-work of my mother
I was enrolled at school to receive my first baptism of Western education
On the first day of school I went in rags
Half naked with only a sport-wear to cover my torso
A local hand woven stringed bag filled with kaukau (sweet potato)
Was hanging from one side of my shoulder to the upper part of my diaphragm
That was enough to cover my upper part as a shirt
I was innocent but responsible

For six consecutive years I have been walking to and fro the school
Under the scorching heat of the sun;
Sometimes even go without breakfast or lunch
Climbing steep mountains, high hills, deep gorges and crossing torrential rough rivers
Was part and parcel of my boyhood school life
I was innocent but responsible

I have a role to play
Whatever I do now will determine my accountability now and forever
My mum has done all that she can
I have to do my part
Anything I attempt now goes well with me all the way into the future
My dad didn’t care about my upbringing and my future
Yet I took the responsibility
I was innocent but responsible


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Gabriel Kuman

Thank you Barbara for your remarks on this poem.

Definitely, it is a reflection of my own life. Although it was a challenging life indeed it remains a lesson for me and a strength that I do not want other young boys and girls to go through the life I had experienced and gone through.

So far I have helped and advised two boys who experienced similar situation as mine and now one has got a good job now. The other is still in school and I continue to help him in whatever little way I can.

I have two boys now and I don't want them to go through that kind of life. Yes, there are many innocent boys and girls out there going through similar struggles but they have to be strong; must have confidence in themselves and must take full control and responsibility for themselves; and finally they must have the determination to go the hard way.

Once again thank you.

Mrs Barbara Short

Great poem, Gabriel.
I have seen many PNG boys and girls in the same situation. They looked poor but inside they were strong.
It was great to be able to help them in various ways.
One little girl, similar to this, arrived very poor at my school. We made clothes for her.
Now she is a mother and has some well-educated children who are now grown up and respect her. She runs a child-care centre soemwhere in Moresby - in her house.
God has blesesd so many of these poor children who you can see have "had it tough". I believe it can strengthen them and they do grow up as responsible adults willing to lead a good, hard, honest life.
I know another one who had the same problem with his father. He has also grown into a wonderful responsible man and has brought his boys up to be strong and have a sense of responsiblity for their own lives which is so lacking in Australia at the moment.

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