Romaine Moreton

Working Note

I 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.








Are you beautiful today?

Are 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
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

Are you beautiful today,
Your brother, mother, sister too?
Are you well clothed and well fed,
And are they alive
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
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
Oh yes we know beauty,
And yes we know peace,
But peace and beauty
Are uninspiring,
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

I am not a peaceful person,
Simply because I am not

At peace,
If only I could stop laughing,
If only I could
This beast,

Are you inspired?

Does insecurity
Rattle your windows?
And your family
They gather,

Does insecurity
Rattle your perceptions,
And everything

Are you beautiful?
And is all well
In your world
Are you not condemned
For the things
You might,
Or might not

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

Is survival funny,
Or has it become

Could you laugh
If misery
Were crowded
’round your

Could you be so inspired,
You would beg and want

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
In a

Could you take
Conversations about jail and suicide
And make it as though
You were saying
One lump

Could all of these things
The brilliance
Which you are sure
Inside of



I Shall Surprise You By My Will

I 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
Cross legged
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,
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,
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 & Me

Me & 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 seas,

            I hand the Sista a Marley,
            & it lets the ideas flow,
            dances around our heads,
            & we forget everything we know,

            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,


                       BLACK FREE,

                       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.


Lil’ (Aint nothin’ small ‘bout You)

Happiness may sometimes present
as distant

It can be difficult
to know
whether we desire
the tree
the shade,
Trees are made ready for resting,
but they are rooted,

As for shade,
there is the simplicity
of its gracious

And if I could cup
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
To be passionate,
is what makes life
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

and it’s at this moment
mountains become intimidated,
by so much

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

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.


Bio: Romaine 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.


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