Tag Archive: poem


war memorial footscray lest we forget avenue of honour ANZAC Day 2018

This ANZAC day as we remember those who lost their lives in WW1 and WW2 we also acknowledge all of those who lost their lives in the Frontier Wars.

We acknowledge people of the Kulin Nation stalked game, collected food and fished along the river junctions, estuaries, oceans, swamps and lagoons of this place since time immemorial. They met, raised families, shared songs and stories.  We acknowledge this way of life was interrupted during white settlement and that this country was the scene of conflicts between the Kulin Nation people and the European colonisers.

You won’t see any war memorials depicting the Frontier Wars. When Aboriginal people mourn the loss of a family member they follow Aboriginal death ceremonies, or ‘sorry business’. It is believed that when a person dies, their spirit goes back to the Dreaming Ancestors in the land if the correct ceremonies rituals are conducted.  The tradition not to depict dead people or voice their (first) names is very old  – traditional law across Australia said that a dead person’s name could not be said because you would recall and disturb their spirit. After the invasion this law was adapted to images as well.

Aunty Margaret Parker from the Punjima people in north-west Western Australia describes what happens in an Aboriginal community when someone dies.

“…when we have someone passed away in our families and not even our own close families, the family belongs to us all, you know. The whole community gets together and shares that sorrow within the whole communityWe have to cry, in sorrow, share our grief by crying and that’s how we break that [grief], by sharing together as a community.

If you are interested in thinking further on this subject more you might visit NGV’s “Colony: Frontier Wars” exhibition on until 15 July 2018 or  read Richard Flanagan’s recent Press Club speech online. As we remember the grief of those lives lost in wars today the following poem by indigenous artist Zelda Quakaroot, from Mackay, Queensland might be a way to share our grief as a community. This poem was inspired by AFL player Adam Goodes, on the subject of war it may not be that “our voices have been heard” yet but we can be grateful for the space to hold grief as a community today for the fallen in war – named and unnamed.

 

STAND STRONG

Our ancestors spirits
Are here…
Respect never retires
Stand up
We’ve marched
Our voices have been heard;
Stand here
Where we belong
Stand altogether
With our passionate hearts
For respect
We all stand strong.

Sources: Wikipedia and Creative Spirits


 

I know nothing about anything.  I just need to get that out there. I make some presumptive connections above about why there might not be indigenous war memorials and sort of appropriate the “unnamed soldier” for my own poetic ends… The most I have heard about the Frontier Wars was on Monday at the Indigenous Hospitality House‘s Learning Circle.  I’m a you-have-to-start-somewhere kind of person and the second step in acknowledging you know nothing about something is to say: Why don’t I know about this? How can I find out more?  The above is a very hastily cobbled together poster I made very late last night… it didn’t arise out of any wisdom or stakeholder consultation (I’m sorry for that), it didn’t even get spell checked (crap!) it arose out of a deep sense of conviction that I should know more about what I know nothing about and wanting to give hands and feet to that commitment urgently.  Richard Flanagan’s Press Club speech is so pertinent to our times I wish everyone in Australia would read it.

In the meantime… I did a little morning vigil of my own putting these up in Footscray’s Memorial Park and on the Avenue of Honour plinth because I want to see Frontier Wars become part of the conversation… I want to have the conversation… and I can’t get to Canberra for the Frontier Wars March.

 

Squatter Henry Meyrick wrote in a letter home to his relatives in England in 1846:
The blacks are very quiet here now, poor wretches. No wild beast of the forest was ever hunted down with such unsparing perseverance as they are. Men, women and children are shot whenever they can be met with … I have protested against it at every station I have been in Gippsland, in the strongest language, but these things are kept very secret as the penalty would certainly be hanging … For myself, if I caught a black actually killing my sheep, I would shoot him with as little remorse as I would a wild dog, but no consideration on earth would induce me to ride into a camp and fire on them indiscriminately, as is the custom whenever the smoke is seen. They [the Aborigines] will very shortly be extinct. It is impossible to say how many have been shot, but I am convinced that not less than 450 have been murdered altogether.[2]     Source

Please see also Lyndall Ryan‘s interactive (partially completed) massacre map for violence near you…

 

What are war memorials for by the way… Remembering? Honouring? Celebrating? Prayer? Prevention? Cure? Should they be educational so that understanding the horror of war we might be dissuaded from ever participating in them by being transparent about the cost of war and violence – personal and political? Should they advocate for alternate and non-violent approaches? Make connections to waves of migration and refugees?

Ironically, the only one at Footscray’s war memorials this morning was me.  There are no flowers or wreaths, no events, no mourners although I saw a few folks in uniform heading for the local RSL.  The memorial has had a revamp recently, the Australian Government is commiting a lot to doing them up in upcoming years on top of the $100 million spent on a new museum in France, apparently there are a total 5-6 Frontier War memorials in all of Australia, maybe we could get a new museum here on country?

I confess I don’t feel as much as I think I should, I have ringing in my head the chorus “Lest We Forget” but we cannot remember what we do not know, how selective are the stories we’re being taught? And I wonder… have I forgotten what I’m supposed to remember?

What are we forgetting?
What are we remembering?

war memorial footscray lest we forget avenue of honour ANZAC Day 2018war memorial footscray lest we forget avenue of honour ANZAC Day 2018

I read some of the plaques at the memorial garden overlooking the Maribyrnong river and the racecourse.  The catch-cry of the funding appeal for planting the Avenue of Honour back in the day was that the memorial would be “…dedicated to citizens who fell in ANY war in which Australia has been engaged.” Could this language create space for remembering lives lost in the Frontier Wars?  One plaque quotes the widow of Private GF Blake of Footscray from an In Memoriam message in The Age ‘Each day I miss his footsteps/As I walk through life alone‘.  Walking is evocative language in this country, what learned wisdom about following in our elders first footprints and following songlines have to teach us about grief? What symbolism might we share of trails that end unexpectedly, or songs that are lost before they can be passed on, can we learn from?

Don’t forget to remember.   Let’s keep talking about what that means.

 

Be converted

candlelight birthday dinner roses

be converted
to the otherness
of the other

they do not talk like you
or silence like you

they do not move like you
or do still like you

they do not think like you
or do thoughtless like you

you cannot assign your meaning
to another’s actions

they are other
and their meaning is other

 

Talitha Fraser

of love

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the early morning light
lays kisses on my skin,
the corner of my eye,
the soft neck below my ear,
even lays one on my hair,
a benediction on the air
of love

 

by Talitha Fraser

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The sum of all we might become

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Living, love,
the sum of all we might become
soul rings, soul sings,
a joyous clamour
in the ears of the One Who Loves Us.
Love each other as I love you.
Too true for us to do.
Love is denied. Love has died.
From here the view says:
Love died for nothing.
But a rainbow arcs across the sky
and our gaze is raised to its promise.

 

Talitha Fraser

love begets love

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love begets love
be love

love begets love
love gets love

love begets love
begets love, begets love
love be

love begets, love begets, love begets
get love

I’m just doing me

woman in veil bathed in light

Joined with the eternal transcendent
Love forms one with our body.
The humble praxis of my body
saves a seat at the table for You.

I’m just doing me

In wilderness and desert we will make a home
and grow the land of promise where
milk and honey flow.

I’m just doing me

Words of my mouth naming and knowing
because there is one Word, one Body, one Liturgy
for our longing, our life, our love.

I’m just doing me

The Word is being made flesh now
being filled with Divine Breath now and
living that out. Standing here,
with the Other in their otherness,
solidarity affirms life – of others and myself –
thanks to You.

I’m just doing me

Sojourner Truth calls out:
“Ain’t I a Woman?”, “Ain’t I a Woman?”
and the women answer: “YES!”
I am the Other.

I’m just doing me

It doesn’t matter if you’re in the garden or
renovating that old house but that you have that
indoor/outdoor flow calling you to contribute your
best self, calling you to contribute, calling you too…
and you shrug, …whatever

I’m just doing me

Sometimes I wish my eyes hadn’t been opened
But my heart says ‘yes’ and my feet say ‘go’.
In veiled resistance I make you question what
You think you see, what you think you know about me.
My weapon my very invisibility.
I will not conform to your norms or your gaze.
Angels fell and still…

I’m just doing me

Faithful women stand and say:
I have not lost my voice today.

I’m just doing me

 

Talitha Fraser


A poet-in-residence reflection on some highlights from the Saturday workshop sessions at the “With All Due Respect” conference.

Because, but, despite…

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who   I   am

∫            ∫           ∫

because of       but         despite

∫           ∫           ∫

who   You   are

 

Talitha Fraser (in the style of RD Laing)

Cut, cut, cut, cut…

rusted iron train tracks footscray station

Cut, cut, cut, cut…

I thought death by a thousand cuts
was a good way to live but
it may merely be that’s
a bad way to die.
This is my blood poured out for you.
I want it to count for something.
I’m sorry I can’t be everything you need.
I’m sorry I can’t be everything I want.

Talitha Fraser

Re-lie

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You want to lie
to cover up what you
think of as incompetency,
letting people down…
That’s a narrative that
reassures who you want
to be to yourself.
Selfish is closer to the truth,
sinful is closer to the truth,
human is closest to the truth.
When did being human become
something you had to lie about
and “cover up”?

Talitha Fraser