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My Mum liked my poem!


This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
– from ‘The Hollow Men’ by T.S. Eliot

I’m glad you liked my poem,
Of empty lands and hollow men
The Land matters
It comes out in the art
It comes out in the blood

That’s a poem I wrote my Mum because she said she liked one of my poems.
She’s a graphic artist and this is the first time she has said she liked my art since I was a little kid.
My art’s always been sound and words and she’s generally not into that sort of thing.
Loud sounds and rude words.

To understand it you would have to read the poem she liked.
And know a little about our family.

We hid our Aboriginality for generations, partly from racism, partly from the child stealing policies of the government, partly from shame.
Different family members would tell others and themselves they were ‘Greek’, ‘Spanish’, ‘Maori’, ‘Black Irish’, ‘Native Peruvian’…
And we’d avoid hanging around in groups with other somewhat tanned Australians with inverted commas around their nationalities – because that made us look a bit obvious.

But we always kept dropping hints.
Showing someone a family group photo was a heavy handed one.
As was telling Abo jokes about close relatives.
Writing stories and poetry themed on Dreamtime or the Land was a bit more subtle.

My Mum hid her Aboriginality until she was in her sixties and she still plays it down.
But she paints and draws and always has.
Images of the People, the Dreaming, the Land, sometimes under assault from an almost absent presence.

In her early 1970s oils on masonite “Empty lands and hollow men” she portrays her most devastated landscape.
Dust and gullies with a light scattering of dead trees and tufts of dry grass.
In the left mid-foreground a collapsing fence line emerges from the sand, posts askew or fallen, top rungs gone or broken, rusty tangles of barbed wire here and there.
The line it follows is still straight though, from its emergence to a vanishing point on the right mid horizon.
It was good to watch the reactions of gallery patrons when they finally noticed the top rung holes in the posts.
Each bears a distinct and unique silhouette.
The profiled heads of Australian farmers in their bush hats.

One Comment
  1. Your Mom is such a nice and brave personality ! I don’t know how it feels when your mom appreciates you for anything….. I haven’t felt it all my life and I still have this wish pinching my heart 🙂 Glad to know you had your wish fulfilled 🙂


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