A Tropical Voyage
Trade mirrors for the chiefs’ faces,
combs and soap are piled on deck. In two lines
of sailor hats, the boatboys sing a native song
to Ideal milk and bully-beef in shining tins,
while underneath the launch the waves change places
in a series, each with another one the same.
Tess Trueheart with Tracy in a Plantation
At a number of points across the slanted lines
of smaller and smaller palms, her blonde hair curls
into so many noughts. ‘John comes,’ she says.
‘His shorts are plain. I can count the polka dots
growing on his tie.’ ‘Look!’ says Dick.
‘The stripes run down his shirt. His buttons shine.’
Boxes from Vila and Espiritu Santo,
John Frum wears his American necktie
now he waits for you. In the store
a Mazda bulb makes comic stripes
on the corrugated iron walls. Patiently
his soldiers are buttoning their shirts.
The Big Man
They will show him round the island
by the light of an electric bulb – a tattooed man,
the chief’s pet, a trade-store dandy in a singlet.
He will inspect a site for an airstrip
and they will say, in Beach-la-mar,
‘Now whiteman no can hidem something more.’
In a Sydney Hotel
Far away, across the Ames room,
across the sloping floor and the grass mat,
with islands in a bright blue ocean
checked on both our shirts, we stand apart
in opposite corners of this Australian heaven,
our two white faces peering out.
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