This is just part of a longer piece. You wouldn’t skip to the last episode of How I Met Your Mother, would you? No, you would start at the beginning. I’ve linked it here for your convenience. You’re welcome.
I learnt about the back streets where tourists had no business going. I went to temples, back street tea-houses, legitimate massage parlours, in a quest to deliver pamphlets for the festival.
I was too scared to enter the monkey forest. Monkeys dashed through the trees, swiping whatever they could get their hands on. I didn’t have my rabies shot and an angry Irish man came out the gate with bite marks and monkeys all over him, as he screamed, “oh it hurts! It hurts! Argh!”
Then nine of the monkeys threatened me, one of them clutching a screwdriver, and they hi-jacked my moped. They kicked me off when we climbed the hill to the Bintang Supermarket. I had to go back to where I hired the moped to explain what happened.
“Those evil monkeys,” the moped owner spat in the alleyway, then laughed. “I’ll go into the forest later and bring it back.” I vowed never to go into the forest again. Luckily I broke my vow 18 months later to become the monkey king, which you can read about here.
Shaken from the experience, I walked to Starbucks to be calmed by caffeine. The building overlooked a stage in the middle of a lily pond, and as the moon reflected on the water, a UK poet by the name of Salena Godden spoke her pieces to awestruck crowds, all who were taken by the atmosphere. She pranced in bright blue shoes chanting about them in delicious phrases that make my ear drums shiver.
I realised that if this was poetry, then Banjo Patterson and the old bush poets I learnt about at school were isolated hilly-billies. This was cool. This was contemporary. This was modern.
When you’re inspired by creativity you go home and try and copy it. I wrote at a carved wooden desk in the hotel lobby, trying to express love and anger in poetry. I buzzed out like a Pentecostal fixed on the Holy Spirit, ecstatic as I read my finished product aloud to the maids, who clapped afterwards and told me about a poetry competition that was happening in an hour’s time down the street.
I ran down the street because I was so proud of what I did, and I was at the bar panting to anybody who looked like they were running the event, “can I go in the competition? Can I enter?” and at last a poet from Alice Springs said “yes, you can, I’ll put you down! You’ll be number 16th” and I waited.
I paced the restaurant crowded with international travellers (from Europe, the Americas, Australia, Asia, Africa).
And I was scared – assuming that what I called my poem would be torn to shreds by experts.