Tuesday, November 3, 2009

He Dead

Hey man,
your secrets are going to be buried with you now
or burnt
or hidden in the trees
for birds to find.
One way or another
you’ll become the story
of bones scattered by a runaway
across the sky
fragments that turned into stars
and made a Milky Way.
Back here on earth
I’ll never know what happened
that night:
whether it was rape,
whether you took part.
I want to know…
I’ll just remember
the chilly, thin sound of begging
and water from a broken tap,
“please don’t, please stop”,
the blackness of the sub-tropical night,
a community rioting,
us all trying to escape by the moon,
me so white
I moved like a ghost
among the fists and feet and light.
I did not exist.
I was not touched.
When the door opened
and a fat black boy
came out crying,
a hand over one eye,
talking about “those animals”,
the crimes were all scrambled.
Eventually you were pulled too
from this place,
muttering “I did not rape anyone”
in that kind, sweet, sorry voice of yours,
but it was hard to believe you
even though I wanted to believe,
and later chose to forget.
That night the moon turned yellow
as we escaped
and everything clung to us.
Conversations bit one another,
broke into shouting.
In town we refueled
and soon the law of fists came
but its hand was broken.
Under the florescence
conspiracy and rumour burned
and those few of us who were white
had no place
no rules
only our instinctual wrongness
and an inkling of its meaninglessness.
We drove and drove,
fell asleep by the roadside
with fires burning,
woke up in their ash and smoke
as if we had fallen
out of a bad Dream.
You were banished on an aeroplane
while whirli-whirlis turned
weary and sullen
and powdered with dirt,
and we went on.
Time passed,
eventually we met again.
I shook your black hand, felt your hand,
wondered about forgiveness and complicity,
about what happened.
I listened to you play guitar
that kind sweet sorry sound:
you sent my eyes skyward
and I thought of birds flying.

- Mark Mordue

* Poem first published in Meanjin, 2006, Volume 65, No. 3

- Image of a whirly whirly in the distance near Red Hill is taken from ABC Broken Hill website as posted by Ron Josephs.

= Skull images from W. Ramsay Smith, ‘The Place of the Australian Aboriginal in Recent Anthropological Research’, Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science. Proceedings. 1907. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales. It was commonplace for anthroplogists of the era to use skulls and teeth for research, sending many back to museums in Europe and the UK. Aboriginal people are still trying to retrieve the skeletal remains of their ancestors so that appropriate burial rites can be given.

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