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Australian Poem: 2008 series #4 and #5 — two for the price of one

01 Feb

You could say these poems are a comment on the discussion that has been taking place over at my OzPolitics blog.

Paul Buttigieg (Paolo’s Poems) is familiar to me only from his web site; I have not come across his work elsewhere. I think he is from Western Australia. I like what I have seen. Here is one example:

Black Bastards

I heard an urban white man speak
Knowingly
About we black bastards
And
The troubles we caused
His mob
The knowledge we lacked about city life

And

Forty years later
I heard him again
Praising our black souls
As we saved his white arse from an unforgiving bush
Unknowingly

And

A thousand miles from water

He loved the sight of us black bastards

A story of another kind comes from songwriter Eric Bogle, most famous for the iconic “The Band Played Waltzing Matilda”. I found this here. You can listen to it on the VodPod.

Now I’m Easy

For nearly sixty years I've been a cockie*
Of droughts and fires and floods I've lived through plenty
This country's dust and mud have seen my tears and blood
But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy

I married a fine girl when I was twenty
She died in giving birth when she was thirty
No flying doctor then just a gentle old black gen**
But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy

She left me with two sons and a daughter
And a bone dry farm whose soil cried out for water
Though me care was rough and ready, they grew up fine and steady
But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy

Me daughter married young and went her own way
Me sons lie buried by the Burma railway***
So on this land I've made me home, I've carried on alone
But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy

Oh, city folks these days despise the cockie
Saying with subsidies and dole we've had it easy
But there's no drought or starving stock on the sewered suburban block
But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy

For nearly sixty years I've been a cockie
Of droughts and fires and floods I've lived through plenty
This country's dust and mud have seen my tears and blood
But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy
But it's nearly over now and now I'm easy

* “They came to Australia with a vision of independence and a desire for freedom. They were the cocky farmers and they became one of the great Australian legends. The cockies were the small farmers, battlers who scratched a living from soil that had never been tilled before. The Ned Kelly gang were the sons of cocky farmers – Ned’s armour was made out of cocky’s ploughs. The cocky’s ingenuity and determination not to be beaten by a harsh and alien land gave Australia the ability to feed itself and, although the cocky farmer is now gone, Geoffrey Blainey believes the cocky spirit still survives in some surprising places.” — Source.

** A (now) offensive term for an Australian Aboriginal woman, although it was an original Eora word, djin, for woman, picked up and used by the white colonisers. Its use here must allow for the context of the song’s persona.

*** The Burma Railway, also known also as the Death Railway, the Thailand-Burma Railway. See Wikipedia. “Forced labour was used in its construction. About 200,000 Asian labourers and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) worked on the railway. Of these, around 100,000 Asian labourers and 16,000 Allied POWs died as a direct result of the project. The dead POWs included 6,318 British personnel, 2,815 Australians, 2,490 Dutch, about 356 Americans and some Canadians.”



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One response to “Australian Poem: 2008 series #4 and #5 — two for the price of one

  1. Jim Belshaw

    February 1, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    A nice post, Neil.

     
 
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