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.
- 101: NO THEME 10COMING SOON with J Kinsella and J Leanne 100: BROWNFACECOMING SOON! with W S Dunn 99: SINGAPOREwith J Ip and A Pang 97 & 98: PROPAGANDAwith M Breeze and S Groth 96: NO THEME IXwith M Gill and J Thayil 95: EARTHwith M Takolander 94: BAYTwith Z Hashem Beck 93: PEACHwith L Van, G Mouratidis, L Toong 92: NO THEME VIIIwith C Gaskin 91: MONSTERwith N Curnow 90: AFRICAN DIASPORAwith S Umar 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith F Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith V Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith J Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith K Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with D Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with P Brown 52.0: TOIL with C Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with L Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with B Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with J Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with T Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with C Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with M Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with F Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with J Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with D Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with K MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with A Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with G Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with D Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with K MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with L Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with S Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with S Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with A Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with S Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with A Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with J Jones