Unfinished Business

By | 1 February 2019

I came back decades later to rooms she cleaned
in ruins of a homestead on the River of
my Country. Cast iron gates built on years of
bumper crops, golden fleeces, free labour, swing
open on rusty hinges like pages in an unfinished story.

Native grasses reclaim the popular lined path to
the manor and bluebells grow across unmarked graves
in the garden of the mansion of many rooms that
sucked youth from Black women till there
were no more many hands to make light work
and it all fell apart.

I was a child when Aunty sat me on her lap
and told me of this life I didn’t have to have.
Days rising before the sun, endless baskets
of washing, ironing, mending, tending babies
born to rule, of bent backs, fingers worn to
the bone, floors scrubbed, linen starched, shirts
pressed, broom straws and dignity worn to the nub.

She never told of hungry nights in cold rooms
listening for every creak of the floor, every
shadow passing the door might enter rooms of
sleeping servants. Years later I read about that in
someone else’s archive and raged at what
happened between these walls when I could
afford feminism, Marxism, humanism and every
other ism built on broken backs of last generation.

Lacking her generous spirit that forgave the past
I came back to scream at the walls, rage at the
silence. I walk towards boarded windows, locked doors
and an old straw broom worn to its nub, fifty years
out of her hand never did clean the blood from the
land or the stains from their hands. I come back to
this ground of unfinished business, leave the gates open
when I leave – swinging on rusty hinges.

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