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A Pupil of Papua New Guinea

A Pupil of Papua New Guinea 

I live in a village deep in the jungle 
And cross rivers on foot and by wooden boat
Westerns have come but have not taken our pride

Village men perform an ancient ritual,
 A tribal dance 
Honoring their ancestors and praying for a safe journey and return for their children ,dad’s  niece and son
They wear leafy palm skirts , tribal prints , face masks , body paint and headdresses 
They drum to a beat and sing in silence 
Well into the morning
The ceremony calls  for no emotion 
Such equates to weakness and vulnerability 

A seven-day voyage to school awaits
Father , a farmer goes with son and niece 
Father gave all he had 
For his son to be taught and to have
The school nearest us have closed
It still stands , neat and clean
With desks , a blackboard and chalk 
Broken into pieces 

Aunty takes us in for the night 
We are fed white sweet potatoes , yams 
The school lies far into the distance 
Behind the  furthest mountain at the horizon 
There lies the toughest and largest river we have.
The water is cold 
I can’t tell what it holds

Dad warns against the
dark brown venomous snake 
That kills with one bite
It mixes in with the the dirt and the roots 
Large birds and buffalo roam the area, too

This green python camouflages in the tree 
It wraps itself around a thin brown branch surrounded by green leaves
It has no venom and is good to eat 
The boy catches it with a trap he made 
Puts a loop around its neck and grabs it away
His dad cooks it traditionally in bamboo

The river has crocodiles,
We pay for a ferry, a canoe 
Boy jumps out of canoe and hides
There was no convincing him otherwise 
At 8 years old, the boy’s  journey ends
Even at his fathers disappointment and expense 
His niece, 12, though scared, carries on her way
Two men row her away
She continues the path alone 

The river connects us to the world outside 
Though many drown and die 
She made it to school
The day before,
She slept in the jungle, all alone
She gave $100 for one year of boarding school
Her family’s savings 
Is put to use
The class is full
She would have been turned away
But her long trip was reconsidered
So she stays 
As the only person from her village 
She’s proud
Here to learn English ,  social studies and arithmetic
Here to eat and to play 
Here for confidence in another day 

Marckincia Jean

Copyright © Marckincia Jean