POEM FOR THE COMMONWEALTH 2018

By Karlo Mila

Watch the video of Karlo at the Fossil Free Acceleration Tour (Auckland, 7th May 2018) here:

We gather here
and feel the weight of the world
on our shoulders.
It does not feel like
we’ve inherited 
commonwealth.
But rather
common problems.

If we are to heed the words of poets
Ben Okri said yesterday, 
“We have entered the garden 
of nightmares and wonders
the giants have woken 
and they are stirring
we need to be roused 
from the beauty 
of our sleep.”

Indeed, we’ve entered this 
strange garden
in this city, 
epicentre of epitaph, 
epitome of empire.

The stones in the squares 
remind us 
that we all died for this.
The war memorials murmur 
numbers not names.

We bring our dead with us 
and they are already here.

Not just the ones marked by marble.
But our ancestors, 
the original inhabitants 
of the lands ‘discovered’.
Who lie in the unmarked graves 
and unmentioned massacres,
in battles unspoken of 
in untaught wars

We carry them like stones 
in our bodies.

They too contribute 
towards this commonwealth.
They gave more 
than they should have.

Commonwealth.

We come with twinned sides 
of the same story. 
Either trauma or gain.

Both of it pain.
Two sides 
of the same coin,
heads or tails,
the head is the same 
on most of our money.

The commonwealth.
Some days 
it does not feel like riches,
Although we gather 
to speak
of fairer futures.

Truth be told, 
It is the fear of future 
that we most have in common.

I did not come to sing a siren song
on the sinking ship of empire,
I come to sing of sinking islands
in the South Pacific, 
on the blue continent 
where I come from.

What is at stake, 
Is the very land we stand on.
The earth itself rejects us. 
It renegs its responsibiliities. 
It has retreated 
back into the deep.

And if the ocean could speak 
in that choked overheated throat
gagged with plastic bags
in the way she once spoke to us
and we could listen,
she would say, 
too much salt on her tongue,
she would say

rising with a surety 
that we have never seen before,
she would say, 
ENOUGH!

If ever we needed 
to wake from our sleep 
and hear the call of the commonwealth, 
It is now.

The islands of Oceania – Kiribati, Tuvalu, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, Vanuatu,
We are the canaries 
in the coal mines of climate change.
Singing and ringing the unruly bells.
Beating the big drums.

And yet, 
drowned 
out.

So here we gather,
the call of the commonwealth,
but it is the uncommon wealth
that may save us all.

For when we are all thinking the same,

No one is really thinking.  

The uncommon wealth

of multi-world-views.

Almost completely silenced, 
schooled out of us, 
in lost languages 
that were beaten 
out of the mouths of children.

There. It is there, 
There lie the answers 
evolving in cultures that hold a 
wealth of knowledge, 
intergenerational meditations 
on what it means to be alive, 
what it means to survive
in a certain set of conditions
specific parameters of earth and sea and sky.

Each of us, 
holding a long-gestated 
piece of the puzzle, 
of how to be human and thrive.

It is a precious peopled offering.

It is here, in the ruins of our histories,
in what is left of us, in what we have fought for, 
Ka whawhai tonu matou ake ake ake,
alongside our ongoing innovation
there lies the most precious offerings 
to the commonwealth.

It is the heart of who we are,
how we see the world to be 
our richest offering. 
Let us share.

My people have always known, 
that we are all relatives,
common ancestors, 
the same stardust,
in all of our bones, 
the rocks, the trees, the leaves
all of these, 
our relatives, all of us,
part of the family of things.

One ancestral word at a time,
we are salvaging what has been savaged.
These backward ways 
of being in the world 
that may take us forward.

That wake us up
to all that we are dependent upon.
That open our eyes
as the giants sleep.

Science seems to take such a long time 
to catch up
Richard Dawkins the evolutionary biologist can confirm, 
that the lettuce is our distant cousin.

But the stories we live by
have not changed.

If we were truly to reorient 
to life as relatives,
commonwealth
would mean more
than what we might cling to
in the face of a dangerous 
and uncertain future.

Let us not 
use the word commonwealth 
to try and insulate fate
with the soft fur of fine feathered friends.

No,
let us spread our wings 
to a much wider vision than that.

It may be the end of the world as we know it
but let us not fear
the remaking of another one.

To the young people I say,
there may be no jobs
but there is plenty of work to be done.

So let us harness our collective wisdoms:
diverse, different and divergent.

Let us create an atmosphere 
of kindness and love
for even the air we breathe, 
freshwater, trees, people, ocean.

Let us create a dream house,
a great place to raise a family.

For therein lies the fate 
of an extraordinary family of relatives.

Where what we have in common 
Is all of us.


 

sigh