ISLAND

Once
There was a quiet island,
With a name.
You must believe me
When I say that sunlight,
Impure but beautiful,
Broke upon the bay, silvered
The unrepentant, burning noon .

There were persons in this place.
                 Too young to know the sea,
                 Aminah cried;
                 Harun, who followed crab and tide
                 Ambitiously, learnt
                 To keep the spray out of his eyes.
                 Their father in his bid
                 To make a proper life,
                 Lived the way his father did.

Mangrove and palm
Unfold in brittle shades of green.
Houses on stilts, boats drawn up
The sand, the makeshift pier, village shop,
Smoke from kitchen fires,
All frame a picture.
 
Romantic. Nostalgic.
 
But images change.
 
Nearby hills are pushed into the sea.
Tractors roar, lorries thrive
Till the ochre of the land
Scooped out day and night,
Crept upon the sand.
 
Aminah, Harun now reside in flats,
Go to school while father
Learns a trade.
 
Along Shipyard Road ,
Not far from Bird Park ,
A new song in the air:
Cranes and gantries rise;
Dynamo and diesel hum.
Men in overalls and helmets
Wield machines, consulting plans.
 
A welder's torch explodes
Into a rush of stars;
Rivets are hammered home till
Hulls of steel emerge.
Sophisticated, self-propelled,
The towering drillers look attractive:
This one bound for Norway ;
The one before works by Antarctica .
 
In time images of power,
Our emergent selves,
Will be familiar
As, first, the body learns
This other song.

Edwin Thumboo

© Copyright 2002 (updated 11.7.2005) Edwin Thumboo