No. 4 & 5


Jim Potts  

Multicultural Semiotics: Marrickville

The old men from Mytilini
Gather in Marrickville
On Saturday mornings
Though most of them have moved away
To live in smarter suburbs.
They stand in the Square,
Gesticulate, laugh loud, debate,
And argue as of old,
Oblivious to the Vietnamese
Who've moved in
And taken over.
The Marrickville Public Library
Provides a multicultural welcome
And there's always the Corinth Grill
Worth a trip for the lamb on the spit.
The grocers have stayed,
The delicatessens
Still offer olives, Greek bread and feta,
Pickled octopus, "Hellenic Delights",
Opposite "Austurk Kebabs".
To some the population shift seems strange,
A Viet-Oz invasion, a post-modern Smyrna,

A cultural change, an exchange of people,
Of alphabets and other signs;
Of shrines in the backs of butchers' shops.

Memories of Asia Minor: Improvisation in a Minor Key

Don’t put down that old bouzouki,
Tsitsani virtuoso !
Explore all the roads,
Extend that taqsim,
Scatter the clouds
That darken each dream.

Take me back to the East
As I move further West.
Make the rhythm more heavy
To lighten my soul:
“We’re refugees all”
Your silver strings scream. 


(Note: Vassilis Tsitsanis died 18 January 1984, in a London hospital).

Ordained by Fate (and Yalta)

Since you came from a country
In our sphere of influence,
There was a good enough chance
We might meet at the crossroads.
Thank Churchill
Thank Stalin
For improving the odds,
For paving the way.
Pity the others
Who were fed a dog's dinner,
Were given no say.

The Dream Came True-
Captain Cook at Kealakekua Bay

Deified on first arrival,
Honoured with the sacred cape,
Hail Great Lono, the god returned !
-The God of Song and Agriculture,
Protector of the Sweet Potato,
The Season of Abundance.
Hawaiians bowed in exaltation,
Fell down flat upon their faces,
They worshipped him, Orono ,  Lono,
But not for long. It all went wrong.

He returned again, no more divine.
He overstayed his welcome.
Cook was tired; he lost his temper.
The violent time; no time for song.
Lumps of lava, rocks were thrown.
A chief was killed. It all went wrong.
Cook was clubbed
And spiked and stabbed.
They took his body,
They wore his clothes;
Torn to pieces;
They passed round the bones.
They mocked the British;
One wore Cook's hat,
Doffed and tossed it in the air.
Reprisal time.
Brits went ashore to shoot Hawaiians,
They had their day and burnt the houses.
What remained of Captain Cook?
Bits of head, hands, feet they'd buried:
Gnawed bones returned by chastened natives-
Sown in a sack, consigned to the sea.
The Sandwich Islands.
St. Valentine's Day.

Dampier's Landfalls in New Holland

They beat the drum
To scare the Bardi
Who ran away
Crying "Gurry,Gurry."

They fired a gun
To scare the Djawi
Who, unimpressed,
Cried "Pooh, pooh. pooh."

A native shot,
A sailor wounded.

Three hundred years !
Still no-one knows
How to heal the wounds.

How to translate
"Gurry, Gurry ?"

To repulse the Brits
"Pooh, pooh" won't do.

"Miserable brutes!"
The Bardi shouted.



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