A World Apart
Have you ever wondered, what time is spent
On red tape and the rules of parliament
Or how the chimes of the controlling clock
Our ordered lives just seem to mock?
Have you ever dream't, if we just might
Be governed none other, than by day and night?
Well I know a place, Nature's fruits abound
And the simple things in life are found.
Although it seems a world apart
From the hectic pace of the Cities' heart
Time is of little consequence
On the course of life's daily events
For in this world you must forego
The material things that we have come to know
But of natural gifts its well endowed
Far, far away from the maddening crowd.
So now, I'll try to set the scene
Of a life you city folk, can only dream.
Transport your thoughts to tropic climes
To a place where the sun almost always shines
And there, through the eyes of a village youth
Imagine, you were there in truth.
Tokani, was a proud young man
His features firm had a burnished tan.
He lived with his people, in a land serene
Where their tribal lives had no routine.
In this village scene, all the surroundings could
Be a part of their daily livelihood.
Their houses, raised above the ground
Were built on a clear and well kept mound.
Arranged in lines, randomly matched
All were neat and newly thatched.
Not one of them, could you call grand
But the outlook from their spit of land
In fact, if I was reticent
In a word, would call magnificent!
To the East, the ground gave way
To a pristine beach on an ocean bay.
On its furthest shore, a mirage strange
danced underneath a mountain range.
Walking barefoot along that beach
On sand as white as sunburned bleach
Tokani came to the rocky end
Where the neck of land began to bend
And there a reef stretched to the North
As the tide surged over, back and forth.
To the West, a wide lagoon
Mirrors the light of a tropic moon.
Small islands line the Northern rim
Where white surf foams, at the ocean's whim.
On the other side, without pride of place
A mangrove stand is no disgrace
For where the jungle meets the sea
The mangroves are the hub of the ecology.
They have their purpose, while at the back
Grow the sago palms, they call sac sac.
Of course these swamp palms are of use
And the village people can produce
from the stems, a beaten staple starch
While the thatch they use is their leafy arch.
From the nearby bush flows a crystal stream
That allows the sunlight to intervene
And the little isthmus, at its mouth
Joins the mainland, just to the South.
There the trees grow majestically
At the fringe of the forest canopy.
A hand unseen can orchestrate
To make this world reverberate
For when the birds begin to sing
And the cicada's echoes loudly ring
The rolling tones of the pounding sea
Lend percussion to the symphony
And the tinkling of the little stream
Flows in harmony with the subtle theme.
By day, the set has been described
For these works by Nature improvised
But when the sunlight leaves the sky
Come the fairy lights of the firefly.
Tokani's people had cleared walking paths
That joined their gardens and the water baths
So through the bush they could move about
regain their bearings, when in doubt.
The livestock that the tribe maintained
Also wandered unrestrained
Chickens, pigs and the family pets
All shared their food and accoutrements.
In fact, all they needed of their daily toil
Was the bush, the sea and the fertile soil.
So what of life's daily chores
In this land of Nature's providors?
Well, it fell upon the women's lot
To maintain their agricultural plot.
Men built houses and garden palisades
That prevented the pigs from making raids.
Tokani though, he liked to fish
For seafood was their staple dish.
The craft with which he plied the sea
Were lined on the bank of the estuary.
Just recently he'd help select
A tree most suited in this respect.
In the shade, he watched a craftsman hew
At the log, as he fashioned a fine canoe.
Tokani marvelled at his skill
Shaping the hull to its builder's will.
He was content to watch and patiently wait
The canoe would be his to initiate.
Around Tokani, village children played
While palm trees over their playground swayed.
By these gracefull palms, providing shade
The agile children usually stayed.
They could scurry up to the dizzy top
To pluck the coconuts and let them drop.
From the green nuts, that sometimes burst
They drank the milk, to quench their thirst
And the mature nuts, they had learned to husk
Satisfied their hunger, until dusk.
In the tropic heat, they knew no shame
The naked children engaged in a lively game.
On one hand, came their sounds of mirth
As they frolicked in the foaming surf.
The limb of a large tree, spread abroard
Over the water, served as a diving board.
The village nestled in between
So their antics, never went unseen
And come evening, eating by the fire
They grew tired and ready to retire.
At night, while the little children slept
Their brothers around the fireside crept
And listened intent, to the men relate
Affairs of their world, from some bygone date.
The stories, as the night progressed
From the facts most blatantly digressed
As from the effect of its narcotic balm
They chewed the nut of the betel palm
And retold the tales that will never die
Of their spirit world ... and the Masalai.
There were times, when they sought to interact
With the people outside of their forest tract
And the message sent, was not on foot
But by the booming beat of the garamut.
The social event, was planned for days
A sing-sing, set in their traditional ways.
As the nominated date approached
The young ones in the dance were coached
And when the tasks, had all been shared
For the ceremonial dance they all prepared.
As the setting sun began to fade
Throbbed a kundu beat, from a forest glade.
Torchlights flickered through the trees
And the chanting grew on the evening breeze.
Weird shadows cast along the track
By the eerie masks, and their features black.
Into the clearing, with great effect
Burst a procession of warriors, all bedecked
And the children screeched, in mock dismay
As the painted figures pranced their way.
All the village seemed to hum
And to greet their neighbours, began to drum.
Both groups moved to the rhythmic beat
And the feathers bobbed with their dancing feet.
Tokani soon spied a pretty face
Whose body moved with an easy grace.
Her eyes and smile were sparkling bright
And her skin shone gold in the firelight.
He danced as if she would be his prize ...
Or so he began to fantasize.
Soon after, at the mu-mu feast
Tokani sought to meet her, but at least
He learned she was young and free
And that by name, she was called Hani.
He noticed how she liked to flirt
The way she bobbed her cute grass skirt.
He vainly tried to single out
Her presence, from the men about
But when he judged, there was no chance
Reluctantly rejoined the dance.
They woke next morning, to a loud affray
Which concerned a pig, that had gone astray
And the man who stood as the one accused
At the charge, was hurt and quite bemused
For at that time, no one could tell
That a creature from the brink of Hell
Had strayed ashore, one stormy night
As if their peaceful lives to spite.
It had settled in their swamp, to dwell
And watched, like Satan's sentinel.
But Tokani's mind was on lighter things
And he followed Hani to the village springs.
He planned for this day, her heart to woo
And his recent fantasies pursue.
But no matter how hard he tried to please
He saw only her laughing brown eyes tease.
His ardent vows, she simply ignored
and played with her dog, as Tokani implored.
The day was hot, but the water so cool
She enticed her dog to a favourite pool.
Along its bank, they quietly walked
With no idea, they were being stalked.
So as deemed by fate, Hani dived in
And to the deepest part, began to swim
She called to her dog, for as yet unseen
Lurked the giant reptilian submarine.
Left as he was, with his jilted pride
Tokani had stayed in the bush to hide.
Thinking how his life had lost its plot
In an instant, he was rooted to the spot
For echoing down the jungle stream
Came the strains of Hani's deathly scream.
Down the tangled track he raced
And along her familiar footsteps traced.
Although he wished his foreboding wrong
Both Hani ... and her dog, were gone.
From the signs he found, it was Oh! ..so clear
As to what had caused her to disappear.
And while he continued the search, in vain
Thoughts of vengeance, eased his pain.
In his mind he devised the plot reversed
To kill the predator, that held them cursed.
So, without the consent of the elder men
He stole a pig, from the village pen
And with the largest net, slung across his back
He struggled resolute, back down the track.
The hapless pig, was soon staked out
At the place he'd heard her fearful shout
And overhead, the net he strung
From the branches there, which overhung
And now that the hour was growing late
He climbed aloft and began to wait.
The leaves whispered in the wind, fireflies twinkled
Clouds sheltered the moon and light rain sprinkled
The night sounds coaxed his eyelids closed
And as the hours slipped by, he quietly dozed.
He never knew by what sixth sense
He woke alert, his body tense
Or what was the innate, ethereal sign
That had caused the shiver to run down his spine
For in the dark, the silence screamed
And the jungle all around him steamed.
Just as the moonlight pierced the cloud
And the light mist, hanging in a shroud
Reflected back, came the red eye glow
That burnt like coal from the pool below.
From his lonely branch, Tokani peered
In the water, the menacing red eyes leered
As coldly they surveyed the ground
The creature moved, without a sound.
He heard from the bank, the soft mud sucked
As giant feet, from its surface plucked
And it seemed as if the fetid air
Had followed from some squalid lair.
As the hulk emerged in stark relief
He stared in awe and disbelief
And wished the precarious perch he'd found
At least, ten feet more above the ground.
Overhead, the young hunter froze
As below him, the mighty reptile rose.
Across the path swayed it's sure advance
That held Tokani in a morbid trance.
The tethered pig, now caught the scent
And it's squeals could rent the firmament.
The cries were stifled by one loud crunch
As the powerful jaws, began to munch
They jerked the net, that he had hung
And the trap was set, and neatly sprung.
Although the plan was well prepared
It was not designed for the beast it snared.
No sooner had the mesh pulled taught
The monster sensed it's body caught
And the earth exploded, in a swirling rage
Unleashed upon that narrow stage.
The tether post in the ground, though stout
Soon violently, was shaken out
But the rope was tied at the other end
To the branch he clung, which began to bend.
All his being, began to quake
As the supple limb threatened to break.
Below, the awesome reptile thrashed
When on top, the bough and young man crashed
In the midst of a deadly barrel roll
Tokani fought, for his life and soul.
As the massive tail, whipped and whacked
From one fearful blow, his thigh bone cracked
And his last thought, as his senses paled
Was the foolish, impetuous scheme had failed.
The wild commotion at the creek
Aroused the village, from its sleep
And once, they all were wide awake
The men ventured to investigate.
At the water's edge, in mud and dirt
They found Tokani, lying quite inert.
When they ascertained he wasn't dead
From the bush, they formed a make-shift bed
And on the litter, they carried him
To be nursed by the men of medicine.
From his broken frame, a spark of life
Throbbed from the legacy of recent strife.
Mingled through the fog and pain
Wafted thoughts of loss, chagrin and shame
He had ignored the words of heads more wise
And that nearly caused his own demise
For hours, he languished in this state
With no will left to recouperate.
In a mist he dreamt of the girl he mourned
And his dream, by a silken voice adorned.
The spectre seemed so very real
That her vibrant presence, he could feel
He struggled now, with new resolve
His fear, that the vision would dissolve.
A fever, made his thoughts rotate
And in his mind, he seemed to hallucinate.
Only as he woke, could she re-assure
And with her large, adoring eyes allure.
When his mind, at last, became more clear
He listened in wonder, so as to hear
Of Hani's ordeal, which began to unfold
As slowly, the gripping tale was told.
When her dog was taken by the beast
She'd struck out wildly, to the East
Clawing her way through the sago stand
And the barbed fronds that barred dry land.
By the time she reached the other side
Raked by thorns and petrified
She realised, that the one way back
Ran the awful risk of a new attack.
For two whole days, she hid in fear
Of the monster, lurking to her rear.
Yet all was well, as it came about
Or so she found, when she ventured out.
Of the giant crocodile, there was no sign
It had vanished, as if by some strange design
And although not dead, it had in fact
Removed, to some far off habitat.
Tokani, self esteem restored
Found his courage, had been its own reward
Although Hani, had always seemed to taunt
Her affections, she tried hard to flaunt.
Its from such exploits, that legends start
And from other tales are set apart
So as the years past by them flew
By the telling, Tokani's reputation grew.
The village held him in such high esteem
They made him a chief of the tribal team.
He now walked with a limp and had grizzled hair
But he and Hani, made a handsome pair
And no matter how they stretched the truth
They were both extolled, as living proof.
Now although this story may be marred
And its peaceful subject, somewhat scarred
Remember, that just one event
Was blamed on the part of the Devil sent.
For Tokani surely didn't fret
Nor that twist of fate, would he forget.
Although the circumstances, had been strange
That caused his life to rearrange
Yet he and Hani, lived content
As one, with their environment.
Rodd Sherwin ©
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