My Sunburnt Country


First stanza written November 1994, at the Dinner for the end of the “Factions and Friction” conference, Flinders University, Adelaide. Among others was Syd Harrex, my good friend and Lloyd Fernandez, Rick and Sue Hoskins my other good friends. The rest written 18th January 1995 for the Stanthorpe Poetry competition.

Why do you say you love this country
when you rape my mother?
The gold and silver, opals and diamonds
you place upon fingers of your loved ones,
who eventually turn withered and dry
as the dust that is the perfume on her body, come from her womb.
Wheat that makes the bread that feeds your children;
grapes that make the wine that quenches your mans thirst
are like cancerous growths upon her skin.

Once, criss-crossed with sacred paths,
like initiation scars,
she was as fearsome and awesomely beautiful
as far-distant rolling hills.
She wore pale stars in her hair
and her alluring eyes were hidden waterholes,
just as glorious to find —
staring at you in quiet love and gentle calm.
Magic stories she told her children became true.
Her children flowed like blood, like rushing vibrant rivers;
gathering on the sandy beach like cliff or crag
and we covered her in exotic frail flowers.

How can you say you love this country
when, with arrogant tread,
you leave your concrete footmarks?
You tear the trees from her breast;
penetrate her naked soul.

My brothers you might be, through birth or blood.
But you will not embrace me.
We are the forgotten ones
and our lifeblood drains away
like migrating birds leaving our mother,
with their cries an echo of her dying.
But, like the birds, one day we shall return.
A storm shall cast shadows upon red plains.
A fluttering breath shall escape her mouth
and she shall rise again.

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