Happy Christmas! (don’t get tasered)

By Pip Smith
Jellyfish in water

By Pip Smith.

On Christmas Island there are several thousand people

locked in the raptor cage from Jurassic Park. It isn’t

really the raptor cage, it’s just what we call it.


What you call things is important. Language is safe

in the cool, sociopathic climes of corporate speak,

so here people aren’t refugees or queue jumpers


or even asylum seekers, they’re “clients”. Our clients

receive a welcome pack with a free toothbrush (!)

They also get free English classes, so they can’t complain,


and if they do at least it’s in English. Some of our clients

are rich. They washed ashore in saris, with gold bracelets

tangled in their hair, then asked for flat screen TVs (!!)


Call that needing asylum (??) Some don’t say please

or thank you, and others just have heat stroke. The first boat

arrived from Holland in 1666, before Australia was called


Australia and we were all given a prison for Christmas. A man

named Goos tried to call the place “Mony Island”, but it didn’t

stick. In 1888 the Brits found guano under the ground, so the Crown


annexed the pile of shit and began digging it out with the help

of Malaysian slaves. Today the street signs are written in English

and Chinese, and there are shrines between weeds where footpaths


would be if the Island was floating in the ACT. The locals can’t grow

vegetables because bird shit + coral carcass = too much fucking lime,

so we mine it until the air is full of powdered poo and our clients


wear blackface in negative. There are many species endemic

to the island, and many which aren’t. There are birds with red

sacks swinging like swags from their necks. They swoop on girls


in red bikinis who have two sacks more conveniently

located on their chests. There are crazy yellow ants

and crabs the size of microwaves. It’s illegal to eat them,


but the ants do anyway. I’ve seen whole armies crawl under

the shells. No one would ever arrest an ant, but they should.

Each November the full summer moon pulls red crabs out


of the forest and into the sea, where they breed before flooding

the shore with new arrivals. The ants eat them too. The ants eat

everything. The ants think they are above the law. The law


is abstract and hard to visualise, but is perhaps a crystal orb,

suspended above the ground. It is in a permanent state

of construction from the inside out, which becomes problematic


when you think about gravity. Lawyers don’t have time to think

about gravity. Lawyers float through the clouds like airborne

jellyfish. Their ancient gowns pulse in the breeze. Their wigs


keep them insulated against the cold, and when they point,

electric currents shoot out the tips of their fingers. Around us

there’s an electrical network of light you can’t see unless


you run into it. Then you get tasered. This Christmas,

cops are still allowed to carry guns but if they use them

everyone screams, Shoot the tyres! Shoot the tyres! Don’t

shoot the Brazilian in the face! This is all anyone can say

these days. But don’t worry, I signed a privacy agreement

so I won’t say it. I won’t say anything. I’ll stick to my word.


Pip Smith is an Australian poet. This poem was originally published in Too Close For Comfort and was republished with the author’s permission.