A project for our children
Limited pot of money, says Treasurer

Kisim bek kantri

| Tok Pisin poetry followed by a free translation

Mama karim bebi nogat inap marasin
Pikinini lusim skul mekim raskol pasin
Mama laik go maket rot kondisen aut
Pablik Sevent laik wok pawa black aut

Olsem wanem nau kantri blong mi PNG?
Planti  kainkain hevi nogat sevis deliveri
Graun blong yumi oil, gas na silver gol pulap
Why ol pikinini hangere taim ol memba bel solap?

We stap win moni bilong dispela elensi gas?
Planti moa risos i go tasol ekonomi go wes
Yumi weitim wanem, ol pinisim gol na silver?
Katim daun ol diwai, na stilim planti moa timber?

Tingim taim ol go bek karim kago na tok baibai
Lusim yumi wantaim graun ino nap karim kaikai
Na taim yumi bungim hevi ol bai tanim baksait
Na hamamas na hait taim yumi yet kros pait

Na husat nau i asua, ol memba statim kros pait
Pulim lain igo ikam, gavman igo oposisen sait
Taitim baset nating, nogat moni long basket
Bihain askim raun long husat igat moni maket

Askim Sainaman em tok kam  kisi moa lon
Aiyo! na why turu na dispela kantri ibin bon?
Yumi gat planti wari tasol Saina tok gat ansa
Karim bokis moni kam na tok  sain lo ya!

Na yumi han lek guria na pairapim tasol
Na apim bokis dinau moni soim masol
Nambis go long hailens, wok imas go yet!
Tasol taim moni pinis, ples ino stret yet

Nau gavman i senis wantaim nupela Agrimen
Yumi mas gat hop, papa bilong haus em Igiri man
Singaut antap long maikrofon na tok kisim bek!
Na sampela harim na tok Aiyo!  Bun i slek

Oh sore oh PNG! Yumi noken wari
Wok bung wantaim na sapotim Mangi Tari
Kisim bek kantri long korapsen dinau banis
Wokabaut wantaim long kamapim gutpela senis


Take back our country

[Loose translation by Keith Jackson]

Pregnant women don’t have enough medicine
Children drop out of school and become vandals
Mothers want to go to market but bad roads prevent it
Public servants want to work but the power goes off

How did our country PNG get to be like this?
We have so many problems but no service delivery
Yet our land is full of oil, gas, silver and gold
Why do our children go hungry when MPs bellies swell?

Where did all that LNG gas money go?
We are rich in resources but our economy’s wasted
Why are we waiting; for the gold and silver to disappear?
For all the trees to be cut down and our timber stolen?

Thinking of the time we carried cargo and talked of the future
When we left our land because there was not enough food
We had our problems and turned our backs on them
And were happy to hide when the arguments took place

And who’s to blame for this, the MPs always arguing
Parties coming and going, government’s becoming oppositions
Tight budgets doing nothing, no money in the basket
Then ask around who’s got access to the money market

And ask the Chinese to give us another loan
Oh dear! I ask you why this country was born?
We’ve got many worries but China says it has answers
Bringing boxes of money as a sign of these

And our hands and legs shake and bodies explode
And we raise boxes of debt to show our muscle
Coastals go to highlands, must get work!
But when the money’s gone, the place is still not right

Now the government’s changed in a new Agreement
The father of the house is an Igiri man
He shouts into a microphone that we’re taking back!
And some who hear him say, oh dear, our bones are tired

Oh sorry, oh! But our PNG don’t worry
We’ll join together to support the child of Tari
To take back our country from corruption and debt
And walk together to bring beneficial change


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Francis Brown

The children of Aitape taught the pisin tok in 1955 after the plane landed on Tadji wartime airstrip and later jeep ride to St Anna in Aitape.

At Tadji waiting I managed to swap a pawpaw for a cigarette and had a look at the many aircraft still alongside the airstrip. They were later melted down for the aluminium.

The flooded Raihu river had abated and Fr Denis and I managed to cross. St Anna was build soon before and I loved being there. I met other friars and settle in loving all I saw.

After some orientation I went to Fatima where I was to be assistant priest to do more training. In 1956 I was posted to Karaitem firstly to an older dwelling in a small bush village, mainly St Mateus.

The school there were five older teenagers learning to write in tok pisin; some later became catechists of no great ability for distant villages.

The following year I moved myself and mission station to Karaitem village and started building. School was started with 5 year old and developed with me as teacher with tutors trained by me to begin other classes over the years.

The school became successful and later produced trained teachers, doctors, lawyers. central government officials and others of quality for the country.

I was elected for local government and I served well. The story goes on written in Catholica Australia with Brian Coyne as publisher.

Philip Fitzpatrick

That's a really interesting observation about the internal rhythm that exists in Tok Pisin.

You couldn't design it that way if you tried.

Michael Dom

On point. Well done Dennis.

You crushed those couplets nicely and made the quartet verses tight.

It can be a real mental challenge versifying in Tok Pisin when meter is stretched because of the way vowels are used unsparingly, e.g. st-o-a is two counts as opposed to store or shop.

But some Tok Pisin words are unique and irrepressibly delicious, e.g. a-su-a (mistake), gu-ri-a (shake) and su-ru-kim (move).

And compare guria with sek-sek (fell for it), an old 1960's Tok Pisin term that has good emotive impact when it's used.

"Eh, mi seksek long meri ia (Eh, I have fallen for that lady there).

The Tok Pisin sentence is in tetrameter while the English translation is in pentameter.

So if you tried a rondeau (tetrameter) or a classic sonnet with either line that might have interesting results.

I think that unique phraseology in Tok Pisin may be more important than metrical exactness for most purposes because the language has its own internal rhythm.

Meter does not have to balance for the musical rhythm to sound. So in Tok Pisin writing I've found that it's often easier to create verses of unbalanced meter which are lyrically and musically pleasing.

Nevertheless regular meter creates some fascinating results when it does work out well. Keep going.

John Maine

This poem is the summary of what PNG is currently facing. Very interesting and very well structured. Thank you writer.

Dennis Kikira Belas

Hi Keith, the English translation made my morning, I burst out laughing. Perfectly translated.

Thanks Dennis - parts of the poem were a bit of a struggle for my 1960s Tok Pisin , I can tell you. And your fine poem also reads much better in Tok Pisin - KJ

Philip Fitzpatrick

Great poem and a masterful translation.

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