Kendrick Smithyman



In that lost year in not so tropic night
waiting to fly out early there wasn’t
much to do
                                          but slump in a bar
with a not so good threesome, a ukelele trio.

                                          Took the bus to Nadi
township, like we had when we were country
kids: slat/slab seats, roll curtains.
It should have been a Reo or Republic with
an ooraoora horn. Not better to travel than arrive
     at the Bula Festival. That’s what the publicity
called it. That, man, was festival
                                                                          especially the wall
eyed bloke cadging whatever to help hike himself
back home outside Suva because he hadn’t found
work in the canefields.
                                                  I could believe him, without
being naïve. When he scarpered back into the bar
he was welcome to it. We’d looked in there
      after a short trot around fish stall, sweetmeat stalls,
      a no way puppet booth, watched tennis under arclights
                back to the airport with our colonial
guilt’s leftwing indignation. For more than one
reason shameful
                                     but this trip, a dishonesty different
      in kind, this was an all jazzed up inter
      national airport. Between walkway and gallery,
      dutyfree and coffeeshop,
                                                            more smooth a working.
Maybe the gone Bula Festival had more style to it:
      bus pulling out, curtains flopping, victim of colonial
      outrage making it at the last moment, hunkered
      away from us beside the driver, rolling his walleye.
Guilt is common, or fear of being found out
as he went to work on the next lot.
a failing cry “Joseph!” from an Indian
accountant under the arcs, “It’s my serve.
Oh butterfingers!”
                                             At the hotel the trio
still played tiredly. Your last drink tastes
of anger. Was it all like this
                                               in the Treaty Ports?




Author’s Note


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