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  • Politics beckon, we're better off dead than alive on Nauru or Manus

Politics beckon, we're better off dead than alive on Nauru or Manus


Sri Lankan asylum seekers


The fugly

Horrible in appearance, dreaded in strife.
Unpleasant to look at; an ill-tempered wife.
Ill-shapen, deformis, a loathed entity;
Disagreeable. Homely. Turned away from. Ugly.
Deprived; of no value. Shameful and cheap.
A gallows-end ghoul from whose presence we leap.

Repulsive, detested. Better off dead.
The Old Irish ‘cinneide’ (Kennedy; ‘ugly head’.)
Unclean hideosity; corrupt, with a stench.
Ornery, unlovely, confined to the bench.
Such words are applied; such terms used to shun:
gorgon, changeling and duckling. Unchosen one.
The Norse ‘ug’ means ‘to fear’; their faery-left oaf
was meant to identify, provoke sign and oath
to herd from the tribe the unsightly and frail
and allow noble visage (message) to prevail.
The fugly remain, in the Bludger and Widow.
The Reffo. The Abo. The Sheila. The Sicko.

Politics beckon, edge miscomprehension
and toecutters revel in gnashing a pension.
Images seem too obscene for the viewer?
PR is fishing line, branding is lure.

The vat (Farsi, via Middle Persian, for ‘bad’)

Cruel, lacking skill, defective, diseased
morally warped and viciously teethed.
Anglo-Saxons and Germans and Dutch and the Frisians
all saw ‘the evil’ as inferior breeding.
Defiling and faithless (the Slavs added ‘timid’),
insipid and stinky, supernaturally wicked.

When you’re tagged as ‘bad’ or evil it seems
you’re guilty of dreaming non-tribal dreams.
The African-American ‘n-word’, ‘bad nigger’
was tribal rejection by white folks de rigueur.
But for coloured folks? The phrase stood for truth,
a 'bad man' untamed, not traduced. Unsubdued.  

What profits a language to polarise people,
to impale an emptied church upon a steeple?
Why push rationales for linguistic control
that associates colour with purity of soul?
Dark was the devil and white was the saint.
Reason and charity beat on, though faint.

Politics beckon, edge miscomprehension;
indict ‘the other’, exacerbate tension.
Images seem too obscene for the viewer?
take a well-earned bow, immigration führer.

The gut (German, for ‘good’)

The Old English ‘god’ holds fast as a tether
for hosts of ‘fit’ phrases; ‘belonging together’.
Good is ‘advantage, benefit; gift’.
Good is virtue; property; thrift.
Expressions of joy, tempered by pleasure.
United. Associated. Suitable. Weathered

by the Latin: melior, optimus, bonus
the worth of a thing seems to carry the onus
of greatness, abundance, of favour that tarries
(the Scots’ ‘good neighbours’ was slang for ‘the fairies’).
Excellent, happy, the good cause, comely –
does ‘good’ (God) stand with the dominant (Dominus) only?

Does benevolence, bonhomie, a bon mot or two
presuppose favour from above, from mon Dieu?
Does the right of a matter (the right to seek shelter)
depend on a culture? A deity? A delta?
What we label good, or righteous or true
may vary (here’s one we blessed earlier, from you).

Politics beckon, edge miscomprehension,
dogwhistles blown to rally the demented.
Images seem too obscene for the viewer?
Gouge out your eyes to vision obscure.

The Romans’ ‘lower world gods’ were the ‘mánes’,
shades of the dead, mysterious, unfurled,
the word comes from ‘mánus’, some Latin for ‘good’;
for postmoderns this shouts out loud echoes. Sharp strains.

On Nauru, on Manus Island; sites off our shores.
we exile bad and fugly. Those whom we shun.
Perhaps it’s the Latin ‘macer’ that we echo;
meaning ‘the thin or unsubstantial ones’.

Barry Gittins

Barry Gittins is a Melbourne writer who works for the Salvation Army. 

Image DIPB licensed under Creative Commons.

Topic tags: Barry Gittins, asylum seekers, migration, refugees, modern Australian poetry



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Existing comments

Wow! At last a poem that rhymes. And one that makes the reader think. "PR is fishing line. Branding is lure." Brilliant. thank you sir.

Frank | 05 May 2015  

Sir Gittins, I'm smitten by your use of words That show just how easily we separate into herds. A people divided, thus conquered, I'd say Yet our blacks and whites are just extremes of grey.

Bron Williams | 05 May 2015  

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