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Friday Poetry
Poetry

Poetry | Coeval

 

A response to the Stradanus engraving of the Discovery of America, 1587

             

And you thought you had stumbled

into paradise — the word virgin on your lips, blind

to the giant kapok’s ancient life.  Your arrival

has disturbed my dreaming, frightening

the anteater who’s been searching for worms all day. 

Leave Amerigo, we are not a discovery.

 

I lie in my hammock, in my nakedness,

my nipples facing the sun. You cannot vanquish our bodies,

conquer our sky.  Long before your god heard your

infant scream, our world has been unfolding.  Long before

your dead walked across ice plains, five cycles

of our ancestors had traced the arc of the Sun,

 

mapped the constellation of the Seven Sisters,

traded with the Aruacs and the warriors of the sea, and held fire

with the Imams of Manden Kurufaba.  Ah, now I see you

steering your attention to the left where an old mother

sits by a cliff…no, you are mistaken, if you think

she is roasting a man’s leg. If you think we eat

 

our own, it must be because you often chew

on the flesh of young girls.  You cannot remain here, robed

and armed, holding a cross, boated with a crew of men

who are frothing at the mouth at the sight

of my tattoos. We have names for loam, roots, seeds

and the odour of petun.  We have names

 

for the gates of the After-Life, for tears,

for bones and the air we breathe.  So leave and do not fix

your Latin on our skins, our crops and our land.  Amerigo,

take your flags, pennons, killing tools and language

far from here.  Here, the seabeds are made

of deep gold you cannot grasp. So leave.

 

Leave before history engraves

your footprints on the souls of the unborn and wounds

the hearts of our diviners. My hallucinations, last night,

of blood and limbs splattered on the vines of the manchineels,

were warnings to my people. Leave before the fathers

and the husbands find you here and before

 

they adorn your brain with wild orchids,

bird feathers, to give you an exotic death.  

Leave and let the pit vipers and marmosets work

their earth.  The capuchins squealed, and my kinfolks

were squeamish when they saw you in the water, wading

through tides, cutting through thick ocean-mist —

 

they thought you were a ghost disguised

as a white god.  One day your children will burn

our healers, brutalise our forests, if you do not remove

your feet from our shores. The mountains and the rivers

must inherit our children, while yours, if you leave now,

will inherit a stream of good fortune.  

 

Tomorrow smells.  Your hands reek

of savagery. Your water-vehicles will be stained in the blood

of manacled ankles. Have I moved you, Amerigo?  

Are you mouthing the words— fero, veteris, inscius, simplex

as you gaze at us? Do you not know of humanity

There will be no earth after you are done with us.

 

 

Fero – savage; Veteris – primitive; Inscius – ignorant; Simplex –simple

 

 

 

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

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Mona Zahra Attamimi is Arab-Indonesian. She lived as a child in Jakarta, Washington DC and Manila, before settling in Sydney at age nine. Her poems have appeared in Southerly, Meanjin, Cordite, Westerly and Contemporary Asian Australian Poets Anthology. She was the recipient of the Asia Link Arts 2019 Creative Exchange in Bandung, Indonesia. Currently, she lives in Sydney, working on her first poetry collection.

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Comments

  1. Great poem & too true – applies anywhere and everywhere at any time – with the necessary changes having been made. Not possible to say more, having already damned the poem with faint praise. My full regards …

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