Oodgeroo Noonuccal aka Kath Walker
So few know anything of Australian poetesses, so I have selected a few of the more famous and will post a brief outline with a couple of their poems with more links for those interested.
Born in 1920 on Stradbroke Island in Queensland, aka Kathleen Walker was part of our Stolen Generation when govt and churches literally raided homes and tore screaming children out of their mothers arms. The theory being that they could breed the ‘savage out of them’!?!
In fact they were trained for slave labour on the big outback stations or in the gentries service as domestics, garden and maintenance. Oodgeroo became a political activist demanding equal rights. She was also a poet, writer, teacher and artist.
She was very proud to be born into the longest living culture on earth! Her works and kindness were prolific, here is a taste of her poetry. For more of her poetry click here.
Municipal Gum by Oodgeroo Noonuccal
Gumtree in the city street,
Hard bitumen around your feet,
Rather you should be
In the cool world of leafy forest halls
And wild bird calls
Here you seems to me
Like that poor cart-horse
Castrated, broken, a thing wronged,
Strapped and buckled, its hell prolonged,
Whose hung head and listless mien express
Municipal gum, it is dolorous
To see you thus
Set in your black grass of bitumen–
O fellow citizen,
What have they done to us?
My father was Noonuccal man and kept old tribal way,
His totem was the Carpet Snake, whom none must ever slay;
But mother was of Peewee clan, and loudly she expressed
The daring view that carpet snakes were nothing but a pest.
Now one lived inside with us in full immunity,
For no one dared to interfere with father’s stern decree:
A mighty fellow ten feet long, and as we lay in bed
We kids could watch him round a beam not far above our head.
Only the dog was scared of him, we’d hear its whines and growls,
But mother fiercely hated him because he took her fowls.
You should have heard her diatribes that flowed in angry torrents,
With words you’d never see in print, except in D.H. Lawrence.
“I kill that robber,” she would scream, fierce as a spotted cat;
“You see that bulge inside of him? My speckly hen make that!”
But father’s loud and strict command made even mother quake;
I think he’d sooner kill a man than kill a carpet snake.
That reptile was a greedy-guts, and as each bulge digested
He’d come down on the hunt at night, as appetite suggested.
We heard his stealthy slithering sound across the earthen floor,
While the dog gave a startled yelp and bolted out the door.
Then over in the chicken-yard hysterical fowls gave tongue,
Loud frantic squawks accompanied by the barking of the mung,
Until at last the racket passed, and then to solve the riddle,
Next morning he was back up there with a new bulge in his middle.
When father died we wailed and cried, our grief was deep and sore,
And strange to say from that sad day the snake was seen no more.
The wise old men explained to us: “It was his tribal brother,
And that is why it done a guy” – but some looked hard at mother.
She seemed to have a secret smile, her eyes were smug and wary,
She looked about as innocent as the cat that ate the pet canary.
We never knew, but anyhow (to end this tragic rhyme)
I think we all had snake for tea one day about that time.
mung = mongrel
I used to have a 7 foot carpet python in my tiny hut … harmless to us but he did devour our kittens, you could see the five bumps in his middle!
https://allpoetry.com/Oodgeroo-Noonuccal-Kath-Walker many of her poems but would strongly recommend – colour bar; all one race; united we win
http://www.famouspoetsandpoems.com/poets/oodgeroo_noonuccal/biography – short biography
https://www.nma.gov.au/explore/features/indigenous-rights/people/kath-walker – fuller biography