True leadership needed to stop the trashing of PNG
The trials and tribulations of becoming an Australian citizen

PNG Attitude

Wardley Barry 2WARDLEY BARRY

Dedicated to Dr Unia Kaise Api BA MA, Lecturer, School of Theology, Pacific Adventist University

You can find a glossary of Tok Pisin words and phrases at the end of the poem

I’m from Papua Niugini.

If you cut me open, and shake out my insides
no Weet-Bix, Bubble Gum or Shakespeare
will tumble out.
Dissect and break down my cells
into tiny microscopic bits
and you will find totongor, buai and tumbuna singsing
dangling on the strings of my DNA.

I care no more about time
than my bubu did the theory of relativity.
I clock in at 9:30
and sign out for a two-hour lunch at 11:30.
Then I complained to the masta
for not giving me enough time
and cutting my pay.

I sneak out at 2:30
for a session of buai and brus
and small talk with my kandere.
When I’m done
I unload a mouthful of red spittle
onto the newly-built sidewalk
and blame Mr Parkop for not doing enough
to keep our big village clean.

“I think we should rausim da memba.
He’s stealin’ a lot of da pipol’s moni,” I said.
All my wantoks agreed.
But when election time came,
the memba gave us some of the money
he stole from the us
and we sent him back to the Big Haus.

The other day the masta called me into his office
and scolded me for turning up late again
and spelling the word ‘seperate’ wrong.
“You stupid black beast!” He said angrily.
After he was done with me,
I walked out, head bowed and deep in thought.
“He’s wrong. I’m not black. I’m Tolai and I’m brown.”
Just then I heard my friend from Buin calling.

“Hey, poro, I got you one big Buka buai.”
Longlong bilak bokis!” I sneered.
At last I’ve found my place in the world.
If white equals smart, then black equals stupid.
I’m brown so I’m just here to dish out to the black
what the white freely gives to me.

I’m a Papua Niuginian
and no amount of commonsense or certificate
will change that.

When the masta promoted a junior clerk
to supervisor the next day,
I convinced all my friends
that it was wantok system that brought her there,
though we still cannot work out
how Mr Frank Cuthbertson from England
can be related to Undupe Andagali of Enga Land.
Through Adam, perhaps.

When I fell ill a week later,
I thought of the buai my Buka friend
had given me earlier.
I knew he had poisoned me.
Even when the nurse diagnosed me with malaria
and prescribed for me chloroquine,
I still went to see the glassman
who told me to down a potpourri of ginger
and skin diwai diluted with some incantation.

I recovered quickly.
I’m pretty sure the chloroquine
wouldn’t have worked had it not been for the glassman.

I returned to work just in time
to see Andagali being given
much-coveted the Employee of the Month award.
Apparently, when I was away,
she had reorganised the shop
and the profits had quadrupled.
Mr Cuthbertson was elated
and never stopped praising her.

Over lunch I told everyone how Andagali and that bilak bokis
colluded to ruin my career.
I also reminded them that Andagali was just
twenty years old and I’m twice her age.
“She’s a small girl ya.
I can win her at anything.”

When Andagali told me to clean the garage,
I pretended I didn’t hear her.
No small girl, brown girl or black girl,
and no small boy, brown boy or black boy,
will tell me what to do.
I take orders only from masta or other white men.
Just then masta yelled at me, “Damn you!”
“Yes, masta. But how do I dumb myself?”
I was sacked immediately,
                                                     for no reason at all.
I’m sure Andagali and bilak bokis were behind it.

I am a Papua Niuginian,
part of a proud line of powerful non-geniuses.

Graduating with a bachelor’s degree
means one day of joy
and many years of painim wok.

Getting a job
means one hour of wealth
and fourteen days dinau moni.

Serving the country
means bringing projects to my own hauslain
and paying my kandere’s bride price.

Fighting corruption
means letting Peter eat all the pumpkin*
while I protest through mouthful of pumpkin seeds.

I’m a Papua Niuginian.
My life is in the dirt
and my pasin goes no higher.

So when I visit padre Peter To Rot
every Sunday
at the confession booth,
there is only one sin to confess:

my PNG attitude.

* Reference to Michael Dom’s poem, Peter, Peter, published in PNG Attitude, 16 March 2018


Big Haus – the parliament

bilak bokis – flying fox, literally black box

brus – tobacco

buai – betel nut

bubu – grandfather/grandmother

da pipol’s moni – the people’s money

dinau moni – loan or credit

hauslain – the village or extended family

kandere – nephew or uncle

longlong bilak bokis – stupid flying fox

masta – master, white man

memba – member of parliament

painim wok – job seeking

Papua Niugini – Papua New Guinea

Parkop – a prominent PNG politician

pasin – attitude or behaviour

Peter To Rot – the first Papua New Guinean priest to be beatified

poro – friend

rausim da memba – remove the MP

skin diwai – tree bark

Tolai – a native of East New Britain

totongor – a traditional dish

tumbuna singsing – traditional song

wantok system – nepotism

wantoks – relatives


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Charlene Namu

Couldn't stop smiling while reading this piece, brother. Covers every area that defines a Papua New Guinean.

Ward Barry

Haha! Perhaps the beauty of art lies in the fact that each of us can find ourselves represented among its dots and strokes​. I hope Peter — and all other Peters like him — don't survive the third round.

Michael Dom

Ha,ha,ha! It made my evening entertaining to read this double barrel shot from Wardley Barry.

A duel of the poetic sort but not to hit the mark he seems to aim at (to some maybe). Reminds me of Robert Francis poem, Pitcher:

"His art is eccentricity, his aim
How not to hit the mark he seems to aim at,

His passion how to avoid the obvious,
His technique how to vary the avoidance.

The others throw to be comprehended. He
Throws to be a moment misunderstood.

Yet not too much. Not errant, arrant, wild,
But every seeming aberration willed.

Not to, yet still to communicate
Making the batter understand too late."

Strike three, you're out Peter!

Ward Barry

Indeed it is. Thank you Keith.

Ward Barry

It might seem like a duel, Phil and Keith, but I assure you it's certainly not. I just got out of 3-4 months of hibernation and I think I've rediscovered my mojo.

If anything, blame it on the suppression of the soul and the unruly compulsion for expression. A poet is never at rest until his thoughts find their place on paper.

In any case, I wouldn't dream of coming up against a class act like Michael. We have mutual respect for each other's work.

Our works are by and large complementary, for we have a common enemy - Peter, the pumpkin eater, and a couple of others.

It's great to see PNG producing poets of real calibre whose work is so pleasing to read - KJ

Lindsay F Bond

If of non-geniuses, yet also genuine, painim relief.

Philip Fitzpatrick

We might have some duelling poets here Keith.

Lovely imagery and irony.

We certainly do and it's an absolute joy to see such luxuriant talent on display from Ward and Michael - KJ

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