Sime Darby commits to employment & training in PNG
The priesthood wasn’t for me, however it has guided my life

Tales with mum


LOOKING through some of my memorabilia, I found some material I wrote long ago when I had pretensions to being a writer.

One item, a poem, was written after my mother’s death in 1983 soon after I graduated and began work.

I tried to capture my relationship with her, which always seemed unfair to me when all I wanted to do was play with my friends and she was always getting me to work.

However, late at night, we settled into some sort of camaraderie, when she told me tales of long ago.

I kept them in a scrapbook which was later retrieved and put on a computer and I thought this may be a good time to share.

In Melpa, Kur wagl are natural spirits who live in forests (Gui wagl in Kuli) and kepa and maia are common species of possums (koip and nengnui in Kuli dialect). To tie a knot was to pause or record some important activity.

It is late & all are asleep....

It is late and all are asleep but mama and me
The rain patters gently on roof and tree
A cold wind comes moaning through the lea.
The roaring creek grinds rocks and logs,
Like gnashing of bones by a hundred hungry dogs.

Shadows weave and dance from glowing embers,
As mama looks into the flames and remembers.
sit awhile before you wander into the land of dreams
Some tales from long ago you must know, for time is short.
For soon like your brothers, boarding school will be your lot.

Long ago men were as tall as trees, it’s true and not in jest
There also lived kur wagl; those shy and gentle spirits of the forest
They lived in trees and caves and tended to flocks and ferns.
kepa and maia were their pets and birds were their friends
They slept by day and wandered by night throughout the lands.

I listen to gentle sounds of her bilum weave,
I yawn as I feel the cloak of wakefulness leave.
O mama, my eyes open, I cannot keep, a boy of eleven must also sleep
For dawn means seeing to pigs, baby and being at school in time.
Put a knot on the tale, tell it another day when my mind is in prime

O my son, why did the white man come as he did,
With strange new ways and learning and books to read.
of tales you’ll tell your children when ours are gone.
They will take you on journeys you must go alone,
But why pierce a mother’s heart or do they think it’s stone.

A sniffle here, a sniffle there, a glint of tears and a sigh,
Mama, not for me, only for your older sons do you cry,
I do not think you’ll care, when comes my turn to bid goodbye,
With me a rock is where your heart should be
Do tell was I born of you or did you find me under a tree.

From dawn till dusk, only for me constant toil with nary a rest,
Whilst my brothers, when they’re home, nothing but the best
Come straight from school before it rains, to take the baby, but first
tie the pigs, chop the wood, and fetch the water, all today and not tomorrow
Mama, a boy of eleven needs time to play and hunt and fish, or he’ll not grow.

The story cold, mama gives her time worn gems, the usual refrain
Boys grow in mind and body by toil, both in sun and rain
The baby will grow to stand a man with you when I’m long gone
Those whose words are sweet are not your friends, for boys will in time be men.
Seasons and seasons hence, you too will tell your children then.

Mama, before I sleep and it slips your mind please end your tale,
Ah, yes, in this day when trees in numbers are felled and timber cut for sale
when wayward boys shoot both kepa and maia and birds for meat,
Late on such a night as this, one can hear if you put your ears to it.
in mournful search of home and pets, the plaintive wails of a forest spirit.

I drift into the land of dreams, when men were few and spirits many more,
When spirit women gathered for song and dance on forest floor,
now late at night when the storm is spent and the creeks swollen with rain,
loud then faint, you can hear the sad lament, of a spirit mother again,
a cry in fruitless search for loved ones and a lost time, alone and in pain. 


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