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In the shadow of a palm tree: poems from the Indian ocean territories.

Margin I

Cocos (Keeling) Islands

   Like rain inversed
   tiny droplets of fish
   push into air
   showering toward
   high cloud

   this place belongs
   to itself
   you arrive on its terms
   terrestrial peripheral

   life is tenuous
   here on the merest
   suggestion of soil
   that contracts

   with the lagoon's
   slow exhalation
   a rhythm we all
   wait for
   live by
   days poised
   on the rush of its breath.

Margin II

Cocos (Keeling) Islands

   What does it mean to live,
   subsist, just a moment
   above the ocean
   where the slow coral
   grows its mighty mountain
   and life explodes as
   its o-mouth meets the air

   All night I hear
   the sea's secret undoing
   and all day witness
   uncountable beings

   Some early evenings
   when the sun is stirred
   into the trees
   and the water returns
   to reclaim its margins
   we are still

   Only then
   will clear crabs peer
   with above-water eyes
   --perfectly between--
   like sharks setting sail-fins
   to the sky

   the water's surface
   looks like something
   you can trust
   the statement of
   its reflected surface
   is sure,
   promises we belong

The Haunting

Christmas Island

   On our island, the young girl's ghost
   curls beneath the nightscape

   By the toilets, the young girl's ghost
   has some in tears

   On our island, what's by the toilets
   stops men leaving their rooms
   on our island, by the toilets
   a tiny ghost

   On our island, behind the wire
   between the guards the Afghans see
   a girl's ghost by the toilets
   her unwet tears

   Men will not leave
   their cramped and rotting dorms
   cannot stand to hear the sound
   of her suffering.

The Politics of Entry

   Coming in the back door
   like you could wait politely at the front one.

   Coming in the back door
   like survival was a party, you're just not invited.

   But in all this
   we are blind
   to the coming from;
   coming from a landscape in shadow
   where rape is tactical, procedural, political,
   hold the daughter still
   plant your flag in that dark place,
   force the life out of her eyes until she
   is pregnant with the violence of it.
   Let despair grow round
   and firm and hungry.

   We say; the welcome mat,
   red carpet, flood gates open
   when all you see is light
   from darkness
   a door

The Will of Water

      Cocos (Keeling) Islands

      Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
      there is a field. I'll meet you there.
      When the soul lies down in that grass,
      the world is too full to talk about. (Rumi)

   Out beyond the reef
   beyond the horizon, beyond
   the breakers
   there is a space
   that will break
   that will break, that will
   unmake you

   out beyond the breakers
   beyond borders, tankers, customs
   out beyond eyes
   beyond sight and the light
   of conscience

   hear the timbre of strain
   sing a low, sad song
   this vessel was never meant
   to contain
   such weight

   out in the middle of
   we will decide who comes
   and in the thick of the circumstances (1)
   every fear
   of each imagined ending
   will engulf you

   and the sharks
   of our dark hate will
   at last consume you, for
   we are a land that will not
   a line that will not
   a law that will not

   out where mothers
   are grasping for children's limbs
   we are losing patience with pity, turn away
   we will not witness, it will not stick
   for we did not see
   heard no screams
   let me wash my hands in the
   they are not my deeds in the
   I know nothing of the
   will of water

   out beyond the ocean
   and all its undoing
   you had a dream. I will meet you there
   for when life is at last allowed its living
   the world will be too full
   to write about.

Renee Pettitt-Schipp

Curtin University


(1) Former Prime Minister John Howard in his election campaign policy launch in 2001 famously stated: 'This campaign more than any other that I have been involved in, is very much about the future of the Australia we know and the Australia we love so much. It is also about having an uncompromising view about the fundamental right of this country to protect its borders. It's about this nation saying to the world ... we will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come' (Immigration Museum, 28 October, 2001, deos/politics-videos/john-howards-2001-election-campaign-policy-launch speech/).

Renee Pettitt-Schipp ( lives on the Cocos (Keeling) Islands where she writes and teaches Art to the Cocos Malay and mainstream students. In 2010 Renee was short-listed for the Trudy Graham Biennial Literary Award, and in 2011 and 2012 she won and was highly commended in (respectively) the Ethel Webb Bundell prize for poetry. Renee is currently completing her honours in Creative Writing at Curtin University.
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Title Annotation:POETRY
Author:Pettitt-Schipp, Renee
Article Type:Poem
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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