This cardboard prison they call an archive
is cold, airless and silent as death.
Floor-to-ceiling boxes contain voices
no longer heard yet wailing within
faces no longer seen yet still missing in
a jail of captured snippets, images and memories
among the severed heads and bleached bones
of dismembered bodies tucked tidily away in vaults
and museums and universities of the world
in the name of science
or history or anthropology or
something else trendy at the time
justifying the collection of our bits and pieces –
as the Other.
Reams of records demonstrate how you measured
our heads with every Western yardstick –
examined us through voyeuristic lenses,
scrutinised our children’s fingernails
long under microscopes to find them remarkably pale –
gawked inside vaginas where that rosebud is
pink as pink is pink
despite the otherwise hypothesised differences
between black and white
intellect, industry and capacity to settle.
We are the inmates incarcerated within
cardboard cells where every neatly dotted i,
and symmetrically crossed t screams out:
Read this Black angst against
these white pages.
Colour of massacre
A new century dawned and white Australians got urged
to feel comfortable and relaxed about their history.
Shake off that irksome black arm band – legacy
of radical lefties who can’t leave well alone –
their tiresome chant that white Australia has a Black history and we all have blood
on our hands. We’ve got a new song
to sing now!
Right-wing historians hummed this new tune
set about to write Aboriginal massacres clean
out of the record, history books, out
of the classroom.
There were not truly fifteen thousand Palawa people
in Van Dieman’s Land before the arrival of
white Christians. They said. There weren’t
five thousand! Only a few hundred naked savages
roamed here and a meagre hundred or so killed
in self-defence – of course.
Perhaps they were stealing?
Darker still – they were cannibals –
weren’t they? Think about it!
What happened to the remaining?
Nobody wrote it – no history of
Perhaps saved by Christian charity?
Blended in with the rest – maybe they died of
natural causes, or perished just because
they couldn’t adapt. The rest is hearsay – oral history’s
words in the air!
Nothing on paper – so who remembers?
The Aborigines didn’t count in numbers –
why bother now?
Nobody recorded those other syllables in time,
full of sound, fury, punctuation
of blows, blood and screams.
Wasn’t their blood red?
Didn’t their loved ones wail?
Late in the twentieth century, a population
of eighteen million, the shootings of
thirty-five settlers went down in Australian history
as the Port Arthur massacre, prompting a prime minister
who denied Black massacres to buy
back the nation’s firearms to minimise
the chance of another white one.
But, wasn’t their blood red too?
Didn’t their loved ones wail?
What is the colour of massacre?
In 2007 by the colonial calendar commands
were given from afar.
Suspend the Racial Discrimination Act
for Aborigines –
they can’t handle their rights
anyway. Troops marched in,
Bathurst Island, Bulman,
Elcho Island, Gapuwiyak,
Gove Peninsula, Gunbalanya,
Haasts Bluff, Hermanusburg,
Imanpa, Jay Creek,
Melville Island, Mirrngadja,
Mount Theo, Mutitjulu,
Yirrkala and Yuendumu –
All shoved under the dictatorship,
a remote community on Capital Hill
On a winter day, against a pink streaked sky
we walked to school.
You clung to my hand like
I knew the world.
Grey clouds hung low kissing eucalyptus blossoms –
red and green king parrots clipped the skeleton bows
of frost-glazed trees like brooches. Your peals
of laughter swirled in the chilly breeze
across the empty park.
We stopped to look –
birds, sky and flowers – but not long,
I worried we’d be late. You grew up amidst demands,
busy timetables and hectic schedules.
Now I have the time
to think of that day.
Should I have the luxury of raising you again,
we’ll stop and look at all that catches your eye –
let the day go slow – watch the sun on your
face shine gold –
hold your little hand longer.