Democratic Rites


Bare feet and brown arms

Horizontal through the green 

Steel picket pens, holding

Them in their kind, waiting

Waiting in the sun, the dust, 

the steam of another day

To sit for the man in the white shirt

Tell a story, add a name

To the Niue Klin liz fo goodfella elekshun.


In the hundreds they come to confirmation,

gather in a park for the right to make their mark

Ranked in their uniform of dependency

Cast offs from the cargo culture of away

Shirts declaring foreign events long dead

Feet tough as life itself

Pads, toes squeezing dust and mud

And babies grabbing for the tit

Only the children play carefree.


Hoping for a long promised redemption  

Happy to fulfill this act of confirmation, 

voting will be their baptism, sacramental act

Government of the people

the new just heaven promised

without sacrifice, contrition.


Out along the roads to the old war 

monsters rusting in the jungle groves

Some sisters gather at shonky market stalls

Selling sad bits of sustenance to each other

Naked children lie atop a starving, empty stand

A Niue klin goodfella generation without hope.


What will remain when the civil gospel succeeds

Destroys the old structures, fond beliefs

Then fails to usher in the promised heaven, brave new earth.


About this: I was in Solomon Islands, advising on the development and drafting of a new federal constitution, heavily influenced by western social justice ideals. During the last week of our congress, the people were gathering in a park to register as voters for an election later in the year.

 I saw these democratic rituals as parallel to many religious rites, providing identity, confirmation, sacrament, hope, promise of future glories.  

But their reality is so far removed from the promise, I wondered what might follow their next disillusionment.

 © Philip Knight 2018