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Experiment 10

These Sea-Chained Islands–

These Sea-Chained Islands

(For my brothers: Ationo, Iosefa, Anisi, Fili, and Loi)


These sea-chained islands, country of my birth, stretch
From the lava fields of Salafai, bleak and hostile
Like the surface of the bloated moon,
To the fortresses of Apolima and Manono
And the dazzling peaks and plains of Upolu.

page 5 The mountains, brute and broken, anchor the land.
On the reef, sharp and shark's teeth, a canoe sustains
Fishermen diving for the elusive coral fish and eel,
While the wind chants a lament to ended journeys
And the octopus sun clinging to fale, palm, and river.
The town, groping cathedral metal round the harbour,
Human excrement of weekly sins into the sulking waves,
While the high clock tower erect, winks and spirals
To the endless tune of the receding tide.

Once there was a time I belonged here:
To the ebony people strutting to Market, Church, and
To the eternal cycle of children thrusting paths to Manhood;
To the forever blood of soil and country.
But now, as I watch the pebbles in the out-going tide,
These things, once rock-pool of my life, reject
Me to barren shores of winter rain and wind, stripped
Of name: the blessed heritage from the warrior past.
Yet I will always remember those years of childhood
When I roamed these islands with my five-men tribe,
Birds from the fossil trees with shanghai stones.
Once I shattered the flight of a maiden pigeon, locked
It in my artless hands, and encouraged it to die
The sacrificial death of the seditious heart;
Then I gathered the tribe, tore the pigeon
Over a religious fire, and ate it under a ripening sky.
This was the ritual of those primeval years
That vanished like the birds we killed and ate.

Now the tribe is no more; we have escaped the pool of
To the desert of metal cactus and sand: the domain of
But I will always remember my brothers and the love
In those primitive years of cannibal laughter.

page 6


When we grew in tongue and mastered the Word, Ationo
Was expelled from school; he printed 'f—' in the holy
Ationo who stole the fire of the sleeping goddess;
Discovered, they tried to drain the fire from his veins.
Today, he still invades those amazon fields, creating
Children out of the cold ashes of his conquests; dying
The frantic, suicidal death of the fearless Dionysius.

When the world had spun twelve times round the sun,
Iosefa, Apollo of the tribe, wanted to ride in a fiery car;
Iosefa who claimed that cars had souls, and dismembering,
Father's cadillac, he wept and cried his epitaph:
"S—, they got no souls at all! No souls at all!"
Today, with the sun just a scientific glow in the sky,
Iosefa no longer searches for souls in the bowels of iron
Apollo, builder of civilisations, is now a mechanic,
To the ordered excrement of Henry Ford, Krupps, and
General Motors.

Anisi, medicine man of the tribe, has joined the Yankee
Concocting magical spells for the god of war, they will kill
Him in Cuba or Tibet or Timbuctoo; torture and rack
Him in Algeria or Korea or China; lynch and unsex
Him in Birmingham or Little Rock; stake and burn
Him in the Vatican or the Kremlin. Yet when they wrench
The magic from his heart, he will remember our tribal
To tear God, King, and Country out of the guts of the

Fili, heir to Joseph's coat of envious colours, has sold
His heritage for pieces of silver in the temple stockmarket;
He will soon be a millionaire bidding for the moon.
Dressed in Rockefeller grey, they will hang
Him from the tree of dollar green; and he will donate
His wealth to Progress, Art, and Charity.

page 7

Loi, the musician of the tribe, is Orpheus in bloom,
And some day he will meet his fair Eurydice.
But it would be a worthy and honest death.


My beloved brothers, now that we have grown into men
Snared in the webs of our own past actions,
We have become both the spider and the fly.
The ritual of our lives will soon be over,
But it is enough that love exists between us:
Love forged in those years of tribal laughter.


These sea-chained islands, country of my birth, stretch
From the past, time passing, toward a future sun:
From Dionysius and Apollo to Rockefeller and calico dress;
From medicine man and tufuga to naked Cathedral and
My tribe wandered that twilight path; now we have found
The desert, the well choked with dollar dust.
On the malae, where we once stood and bellowed
The first ape call to the skies, metal monsters thunder
Like gigantic vultures in search of prey and the human
My tribe, like the blinding moa, lives only in the museum
Of my primitive, dying heart.

The land of falcon ice and steel, destiny of all tribes, awaits
Me, the reluctant exile, victim of one fitful turn of the