Poetry: Naomi from Namibia | clivejames.com
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Naomi from Namibia

In the Brisbane Botanical Gardens,
Walking the avenue of weeping figs,
You can see exuded latex stain the bark
Like adolescent sperm. A metamorphosis:
The trunks must be full of randy boys.

At home, the Java willows
When planted alongside a watercourse
Were said to stem the breeding of mosquitoes.
Here, they have nothing else to do
Except to stand there looking elegant
In Elle McPherson lingerie.

From the walkway through the mangrove mud-flats
Spread south from overwhelming Asia,
You can see the breathing tubes of Viet Cong crabs
And imagine Arnie hiding from the Predator
Like a mud-skipper playing possum,
Although he did that, of course, in Central America.
Below the tangled branches, bubbles tick.

For a century and a half, the giant banyan
Has grown like a cathedral heading downwards,
As a dumb Chartres might slowly dive for cover
Through shallows clear as air. In India
At least a dozen families would be dying
By inches in its colonnades.

At the kiosk, Naomi from Namibia
Serves me a skimmed milk strawberry milkshake.
She has come here to lead her ideal life,
Like almost all these trees.
They get to stay, but she has to go back.

(Spectator, July 22, 2006)

Note (from Collected Poems)

I never forgot that the patently worthy and intelligent Naomi had to go home to Africa. What she should have done, while still on Australian soil, was commit a crime. Later on there was a celebrated case of a defiantly unassimilable illegal immigrant who, after living for several years on welfare, beat his wife to death, went to prison, got himself released on the grounds that his human rights had been infringed, and was compensated to the tune of several hundred thousand dollars.