by Hans Lee
I remember having book buddies in Primary School
Several mornings a week,
The Grade 6s would come read stories to us Grade 1 students
- It was a big deal.
But the problem would be that by Grade 2,
We’d have run out of those Green Joy Cowley books
- All The Easy Ones
Soon we’d move past the big red Clifford books
To the high-schooler's library shelf
- For The Harder Ones
Shades of darkness
Whose stories were more imagination
It’s hard to tell stories
With picture-less books
But we are told never
To judge a book by its
I guess that’s why today
I judge a man by the content of stories he can tell.
And the stories of more and more men seem to follow the same rhyme.
- Planti tumas igat stori blo hamaspla bia ol sa’ dring;
- Planti mo igat stori blo hamaspla ol man na meri ol sa’ paitim;
- Planti mo ken I gat stori blo sinaut lo ol meri lo rot.
The standard plot in many a Papua New Guinean men’s storybook.
Page after page of
Volume after volume of
The same story being told by more and more men.
As if penned by the same author under a different pen name
The plots and twists are all the same:
Surplus beer, brutal violence, and wishing for fast women.
Have our men lost the ability to tell good stories?
Or have we become desensitised
to tasteless storylines
Accepting the crude contents of their storybook?
But I am still a hypocrite.
I am there.
The attentive audience.
Giving my all in listening to the men
At the buai market,
At the bus stop,
At the office.
The same old story being told from yet another storybook.
But we are taught not to interrupt a story from being told,
So I never say what needs to be said.
That there is nothing admirable in emulating the toxic storylines of masculinity.
- Nogat narapla stori lo stori o?
Will the storybooks of our history continue to reek with the stench of beer; pages stained with markings of dried blood; chapters bookmarked with used condom packets?
In Grade 2,
I remember reaching for books on the high-schoolers shelves
Hoping to find good stories of men who looked like me,
Only to find them empty.
- With love, Hans
Photo submitted by avid readers of Stella magazine.