I wrote this poem on Australia Day on Australia’s Bi-centenary,
It is, as you will come to see, a kind of Prophecy,
Now some decades later, you may judge as to its accuracy..
They would not curse the Land
Though we pushed them to the edges of Extinction
in our frantic exploitation..
They loved it far too much for that.
They would not lay down trapdoor, tripwire Curses
Or poison waterholes,
Just told us in words
We would not learn to hear
For at least Two Hundred years,
That the Land will hate you if you won’t listen..
“Bad Luck to try and harm the Land.
The Land will hate you if you try!”
It WAS the Land itself that rose up,
Long after the Others had been led away,
in neck irons to prisons, graveyards,
shanty-towns & slums.
It turned against us when we tried to tame it,
Grains would not grow
where once were plains of waving grasses.
Cattle starved where once the native animals
prospered. Where trees were razed,
and cities raised the rain no longer fell.
The old paintings were not renewed
And the seasons fell apart.
We remembered nothing of the Others knowledge,
Disdained and forgot what “Savages” knew,
We went and made the Land a jail
Of rectangles and cubes,
And prison farms
To be worked behind barbed wire.
Unloved the Land curled in upon itself
And showed us only its Indifference.
Hostile as we blundered sweating
Through a landscape made of heat and dreams,
Cursing in our desperation
A Land we never tried to understand.
We ignored its Warnings, its Mysteries,
Its Beauty and were glad
to be content with a vision bland
One vast, unending suburban plan.
Rose up against us.
Would suffer no more Indignities.
Shook the poisons from the air
with the Wind Wings of Storm,
Washed our filth from the rivers
With cleansing floods
and swept the whole Land clean
of all our petty flod-plain clutterings whilst we cried,
“APOCALYPSE!” and “DISASTER!”
the un-naturalness of Nature…
And elsewhere sheep and cattle swarmed
like lice over the denuded hillsides,
‘Til the Land withdrew its blessing
And shriveled hot and dry the hills,
Now wrinkled like the hide of some
Vast Beast of Earth and Drought.
And elsewhere ice fell
Where it never fell before,
Or sun grew hotter than white skins
And so it went all across the Land
It seemed all of Nature
Had turned against our hand
As tidal waters washed away
Tall buildings built on sand,
(And where we’d damn a river storing
Water for ONE million souls,
We would increase with little thought
Until our numbers equaled THREE,
then puzzled at our thirst.)
So on and on and on it went,
The Land’s wealth wasted, squandered, spent,
Two hundred years of Arrogance,
Stupidity and Greed,
That finds us gathered here at last
Beneath this flag, a drunken mob of thieves,
Boastful and cruel.
Back slapping, blowing trumpets,
Celebrating, drinking beer,
We march blindfolded backwards
Towards the next two hundred years.
-26th. January, 1988.
The Reverend Hellfire.
Say no more!