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The prison officer’s last parade

Nara - funeral paradeALEXANDER NARA

PORT MORESBY - It is now getting on for three years since that funeral one wet January afternoon in 2017.

Time was the thief he always suspected her to be; taking his friends, taking his wife; then taking him.

Sorrow crept at the corners of his mouth, dragging them down, but he held back the tears as the white hearse purred its way slowly up the narrow road leading to the Bomana prison gates.

The drizzle had ceased and the thick branches of old, overgrown raintrees, stooped low with the damp, seemed to bow down to the road, to him and the vehicle.

Pale white streaks of the afternoon skylight drifted through the treetops and glowed on his neatly ironed khaki uniform and his pair of carefully polished black boots.

There were to be no tears. He cannot lose his dignity.

A lone bird chirped sharply and joined its friends in a chaos of trills as the hearse maneuvered its way through the line of trees.

He knew them all, their familiar cries and the way they waggled their heads and danced.

Their tails twirled to steps that he did not need to teach them.

The little robins were his favourites. Sometimes they turned to stare at him.

He paused to catch their distinct laughter.

They knew this was the usual time he would come by to take the evening shift to watch over the prisoners.

Those long cold nights.

Bleak winds through the treetops, carrying the fragrance of his youth and memories.

They say birds do not die. They return to Eden on rainbow stairs woven by their never written chords.

He longed to wave at them but his hands were weary.

They were bound to an infinite horizon, never tainted by the cruelty of a cage.

He was the jailed bird caged by barbed windows and high razor-sharp wires.

The sudden call of the prison bell split his thoughts, hauling him back as they echoed through the jail.

The prison chapel stood pale against the gray sky, casting a weak shade on the razor wire along the jail fence.

Its doors stood open, welcoming the hearse, expecting him.

His family was there with him. His only son, six daughters, thirteen grandchildren.

A flag covered the coffin as it was gently laid on the table in front of them.

There were chirrups from the branches and he imagined the music to be of many colours, painting those rainbow stairways back to Eden.

Late retired Corporal Ovamu KaipuHe felt himself ascend that colourful stairway.

The inexpensive coffin lay below in the centre of the chapel.

The framed photo on top stared back at him.

He wished to say sorry but…. It was him in that framed photo.

On this day, 2752 Corporal (retired) Ovamu Kaipu rested peacefully in his very own Eden, forever back in his birth place among the singing birds and rich mangroves of Kairimai in the Baiso area of Gulf Province.


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