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Poem for the Commonwealth 2018 by Karlo Mila

Posted on 30/04/2018
By Commonwealth Foundation

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


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,

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