I Read of Massacres

 

When I was a child I learnt the first Australians
built no homes other than simple gunyas,
temporary bark shelters propped up by branches.
Now I read of villages of stone and thatch.

When I was a child I learnt the first Australians
were exclusively hunters and gatherers
wandering continuously through the land.
Now I read of storehouses holding tonnes of grain.

When I was a child I learnt the first Australians
offered no resistance over land declared
“terra nullius”, nobody’s land, open to claim.
Now I read of brave Pemulwuy’s twelve year war.

And now I read of murders,
“forgotten” colonial wars along the east coast,
one hundred and fifty massacres,
maybe fifteen thousand dead.

I read of poisonings, planned dawn attacks
on unsuspecting, sleeping villages,
gun and steel against wood and stone,
more blood to add to history’s dark pages.

I think of the pain of dislocation,
two hundred years of oppression,
of stolen children, stolen land, stolen hope
and the horror that hopelessness brings.

I think too of myths and lies told to children,
endless justifications invented and repeated
so that conquerors and their descendants
can live easily with their conscience.

There is no real ease of conscience in lies,
only the tortured twisting of the past.
Nor is there healing without truth,
nor reparation without acknowledgement.

What can we do now, we who for generations
have lived on land taken from others?
Now we also feel its deep connection.
What reparation for crimes long gone?

Knowledge of darkness can bring light.
Can light bring healing, help us be brothers?
From whence comes the compassion gifting us shared walk
through land once deeply stained with blood?

 

Neil Creighton‘s work as a teacher of English and Drama brought him into close contact with thousands of young lives, most happy and triumphant but too many tragically filled with neglect. It made him intensely aware of how opportunity is so unequally proportioned and his work often reflects strong interest in social justice. His recent publications have been in Prosopisia, Poetry Quarterly, South Florida Poetry Journal, Silver Birch Press, Social Justice Poetry and “whispersinthewind333″ and Verse-Virtual, where he is a Contributing Editor. He blogs at windofflowers.blogspot.com.au

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