believe it is important as an Indigenous poet that I create works that
are not only accessible in terms of language and imagery to Indigenous
audiences, but also pertinent. As a result, the language and themes I
do choose to work with have been considered rather confronting and challenging,
which I can understand. However, the things I have to say and how I say
them are a direct response to the environment in which I have grown up
and continue to live in. To create works that do not deal with the morbid
and mortal affects of racism for one, and the beauty of Indigenous culture
for another, would be for me personally, to produce works that are farcical.
Common themes of the struggle to survive, which is a true celebration
of humanity, can be found in my work, never the less, it shall (hopefully)
remain ambitious and provocative to some readers, as can be said of Indigenous
experiences. Traditional effective Western poetry, whilst technically
and aesthetically tailored for Western audience, belies on the most part,
the presence and experience of an Indigenous audience and consciousness.
As a poet, and with the guidance and influence of fellow Indigenous poets,
this is the space I shall attempt to occupy through my work. While Indigenous
audiences are my primary audience, I do welcome the opportunity to share
the experiences of all cultures and lifestyles through my work and life,
and embrace our differences as much as our similarities.
you beautiful today? Are your children safe and well, Brother, mother, sister too? I merely ask so you can tell,
I wish to know your home, Your world, Or any place where you Dwell, I want to know Are you beautiful, Are you well?
I drag this sorry carcass Have dragged it for centuries, And miles, I have dragged it over gnashing teeth, Poised in revolt, And poised in style,
But I laugh, do you laugh too? I laugh with my sisters and brothers At things that others wouldn’t get, While talkin’ ’bout jail, While talkin’ ’bout death,
I laugh loud and I laugh hard, I rumble the mountains from the pit Of my stomach, While talkin’ ’bout jail, While talkin’ ’bout death,
This is a funny situation, The life of the oppressed, This is a funny situation, Much funnier than death,
But we cannot be bleak And we cannot be meek, We must call upon greatness, To get us through this week,
And I look for inspiration, In this misery, And must say, I am very inspired, And it is funny inspiration, You see, So funny, It sometimes grows me Tired,
Are you beautiful today, Your brother, mother, sister too? Are you well clothed and well fed, And are they alive And well, Not dead?
Can you laugh when trying is Gathered ’round your door, Can you laugh at the crying, Can you laugh and cry for more?
And isn’t this inspirational,
I think of the money I have saved, ’cause I know folk Who take great Treks, I know folks Who have been To Tibet, And I feel so smug And I feel so small For what they seek I find Gathered ’round my door,
And still I laugh, I laugh and cry for more,
And isn’t this inspiring,
My grandfather, He wanted to sing, Wanted to bellow From the trees, He wanted to sing opera From the bottom of the river, He wanted the bees and Their knees, But he couldn’t stop The laughing, Round his front door, He couldn’t stop his laughing, Oh and how it roared,
Oh yes he laughed, He laughed so hard It killed, And our family Laughs harder still, Yes our laughter Shakes the hills, ’bout my grandfather, And his unborn dream, ’bout my grandfather, And his blissful screams,
Are you beautiful, Do you create great things, Do you read beautiful poetry, And all those other Beautiful things, I think I would like to too, You know, Prose, paint and draw, But I am so addicted to laughing, It just leaves me wanting more, Like an injection, Like an infection, And I do not know withdrawal,
I’ve had to Cross coals and attitudes, Seen my sisters hanging, And my brothers too, Disease is not far either, Others die from aids too,
We sit around our lounge rooms, Discussing jail and suicide as though asking One lump or two? And all of this makes me laugh, And I laugh Till I am blue,
I am accosted by misinformation When it is said, Ah you are a peaceful people, Your people do love Peace, Oh yes we know beauty, And yes we know peace, But peace and beauty Are uninspiring, Unless You’ve been to Greece,
My people shout, Till the highest tree Has heard it, We brag about poverty, And say things like, Have you read it,
My people speak loudly, About those who have fallen before us, Speak proudly, Bout those who fall Beside Us,
I am not a peaceful person, Simply because I am not At peace, If only I could stop laughing, If only I could Silence This beast,
Are you inspired?
Does insecurity Rattle your windows? And your family When They gather,
Does insecurity Rattle your perceptions, And everything That Matters?
Are you beautiful? And is all well In your world Today, Are you not condemned For the things You might, Or might not Say,
Are you inspired, by that which is gathered ’Round your door?
Does it leave you wanting Does it leave you wanting For more?
Do you find it funny Can you laugh At the in betweens,
Could you rise each day To do, Those gotta do Things,
Is survival funny, Or has it become a Chore,
Could you laugh If misery Were crowded ’round your Door?
Could you be so inspired, You would beg and want For More,
Could you take Your broken heart, And paint The most magnificent masterpiece The world has ever seen,
Could you take The blood of your sister, And make people Believe In a Dream,
Could you take Conversations about jail and suicide And make it as though You were saying One lump Or Two,
Could all of these things Inspire The brilliance Which you are sure Lives Inside of You.
Shall Surprise You By My Will
make oppression work for me, With a turn and with a twist, Be camouflaged within stated ignorance, Then rise, And surprise you by my will,
I will make oppression work for me, With a turn and a twist, I shall sit cross legged like a trap door, Then rise, And surprise you by my will,
I will let you pass me over, Believe me stupid and ill informed, And once you believe me gone or controlled Will rise, And surprise you by my will,
I shall spring upon you words familiar, Then watch you regather as they drop about, Like precious tears thick with fear, Hear you scream and shout, Then I shall watch convictions break away, And crumple like paper bags, And then as beauty I shall rise, And surprise you by my will,
It is only when you believe me gone, Shall I rise, From this place where I Wait Cross legged Wait,
To surprise you
by my will,
In the alleys, in the clubs, in the parliaments, In courts of law, parking cars, driving buses, And generally watching you Watching me As you pass me by,
I shall wait cross legged, Wait, To surprise you by my will,
For I shall stumble from houses of education, And I shall stumble from institutions of reform, I shall stumble, Over rocks, over men, over women, and over children, And surprise you by my will,
I shall stumble over poverty, over policies, and over prejudice, Weary and torn, I stumble, Then bleary and worn I shall rise, From this place where I wait cross legged, Wait, And surprise you by my will,
For the mountains we crossed, They were easy, And the rivers we swam, They were easier still, And even then, As I attempted to outrun inhumanity, I surprised you by my will,
I have witnessed the falling of many, Heard them cry and hear them still, Even with grief inside me growing, I command my spirit to rise, And surprise you by my will,
And for all people, We are here and we are many, And we shall surprise you by our will, We shall rise from this place where you expect To keep us down, And we shall surprise you by our will,
For the bullets we dodged, They were difficult, And this ideological warfare More difficult still, But even now, As we challenge inhumanity, We shall rise, And surprise you by our will.
& Alice, Alice & Me,
we sit on my lounge room floor, swapping prose & perfecting poetry,
Me & Alice, Alice & Me,
we sit, exchanging words, crossing oceans & crossing
I hand the Sista a Marley, & it lets the ideas flow, dances around our heads, & we forget everything we
We do a spin upon the spot, with our black locks flying, we laugh at everything, & then collapse crying,
Sweet honey seeps from the Rock, Sweet soul seeps from this spot,
Me & Alice, Alice & Me,
we laugh lots,
The wise old spirits are talking, & we listen with respect, they bark at our attention, & smile when we connect,
Me & Alice,
we’re from a long line of survivors,
Alice & Me,
we’re a couple of soul jivers,
We chant, dance, & sing,
FREE BLACK / BLACK FREE / FREE BLACK,
Free my soul
While freeing me,
FREE BLACK, BLACK FREE,
We talk about where we’re from, & we talk about where we’re
going, we talk about blind believing, while maybe never knowing,
She says Sista Woman, I say Tidda Grrrl, she says there’s no free country, I say there’s no free world,
The wise old spirits are talking, & that’s no surpirse to me, ’cause wise old spirits can talk
& talk, but the fooled will never see,
Me & Alice Walker, Alice Walker & Me, It is a journey of Truth,
FREE BLACK BLACK FREE
FREE BLACK BLACK FREE.
(Aint nothin small bout You)
may sometimes present as distant and inarticulate,
It can be difficult to know whether we desire the tree or the shade, Trees are made ready for resting, but they are rooted,
As for shade, there is the simplicity of
its gracious reprieve,
And if I could cup Shade within the palm of my hand, My friend I would offer it to you,
To conquer is the journey of the soul, To overcome, is the Spirit’s will, To desire, is what makes life long, To be passionate, is what makes life large, To be a believer, makes life a little softer, a little less acute, Puts curves where edges once were,
And if I could cup a curve within the palm of my hand, My friend, I would offer it to you,
Hills do appear difficult, and the mountains, a little more forbidding still,
but remember, there is a point where the mountains and the sky merge,
and it’s at this moment mountains become intimidated, by so much Possibility,
And if I could cup possibility within the palm of my hand, My friend, I would offer it to you,
Lil’ can sometimes look as though they took Little and made it smaller still,
But believe me when I say, There is Nothing, small about you,
For your very name conjures clouds passing through eternity, It conjures journey not as an endless plight,
And I can cup Journey within the palm of my hand, My friend, and I offer it to you.
is a freelance writer and performance artist. She writes poetry, prose
and film scripts. Her interest and focus is on Indigenous social and cultural
issues. Her first collection, The Callused Stick of Wanting (Magabala
Press 2000), has been implemented as a study text in universities throughout
Australia, and the Santa Cruz University. Her poetry has been published
in A Fruit Salad (Random House) and Girls Talk(Finch Publishing,
1998). She has a Master of Arts in Screenwriting from the Australian Film
Television & Radio School (1998) and a Bachelor of Arts from University
of Technology, Sydney.
Romaine has performed and participated on various panels
at the Festival of the Dreaming, and has performed alongside Leah Purcell
and Archie Roach at the Sydney Opera House for Reconciliation (May 2000)
under the umbrella of Message Sticks. She has written two films
which featured in fringe festivals in Canne: Cherish (part of a
package of students’ works from across Australia, 1998) and Redreaming
The Dark (part of an Australian showcase, 1999). Redreaming
was also selected for the New York Film Festival in 1999.