Poems

From Past To Present

From Past To Present by Landon Punch, Roebourne, Western Australia

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Fishing with my family at our secret spot,
sitting on the river bank, damn it feels so hot;
Catching our feed as the day comes to a rest,
I often sit and wonder at times what it would have been like,
When our ancestors would sit and fish, through all hours of the night?
With no cars or swags to take them along,
But with only the moonlight for them to fully rely on.
 
I have my lures and I have my rods,
I even got a good secret weapon, the old mud crab pot!
But way back then, boy did they do it hard, camping on the hard ground,
or near an old stock yard: eating only enough from what they caught,
Us young fellows of today could surely be taught.
 
We fish all day with lines across the rivers,
but how they did it in their day can give a man shivers.
They would make their fish traps by hand using rocks and hooks from bone,
and fishing wire came from the old tree vine.
What a way to catch your food, but you had to be fit and healthy,
And you had to be in the mood.
Today we sit on our fancy chairs, sitting back,
Worrying about the mud on our leg hairs.
 
Turning on the genny [generator] for the lights and music to start pumping,
what we don't realise is that the snakes are coming to investigate "what's that thumping"?
Ice in the esky's with the cold beer;
heck our old mob never had any fear.
Setting the table up for a feast,
but the old fellows of the day ate and slept not far from the beasts.
Nowadays we will awake with a mighty hang over,
stumbling to the toilet and sitting in the shower,
taking the panadol every 4th hour.
 
Hunting today with our new guns,
bang, bang, bang, I think I got one?
Aiming very slowly through a glass telescope,
if I had no modern weapon, how can I cope?
But the old men, they were smart;
they would sit and wait, for a jump start,
Startling a roo from behind a bush, throwing his spear,
got him, straight through its heart.
Sitting by the camp fire, preparing for his next meal,
sharpening his spear, yes it is sharp to feel.
 
I read history books that some often tell us,
that all our ancestors were good for was fencing, mustering and breaking in horses?
How wrong are some of these textures of literature do I have to take?
For when I was in high school, I had a young Uni Grad teaching me Aboriginal history for Pete's sake!
 
The men of yesterday would be arrested for hunting game on their own land,
A sheep or a cow just to feed the crowd,
the constable would come and take them away;
"10 years hard labour" is what the magistrate would most commonly say;
With a hot metal chain wrapped around their necks,
and shackles around wrists and ankles giving in to the suns hot, heating element effects.
Burns were common, cuts and scratches from being dragged,
chained to a horse's back through the hot sand.
All of this wrongness just for a feed, all on his own land,
being taken away from them with no written deeds.
The women and children would be left to fend for themselves,
with the men all locked up, who would be in charge?
Hunters and gatherers were survival techniques,
back burning country for the day's feed,
Attracting game from near and far,
quickly getting the spear and woomera ready on the arm.
 
Rock carving was also an ancient tool,
a tool so sophisticated for its use.
It holds information for our mob,
from a time long ago when the world was soft.
Today we have the internet with so many pages,
but the old rock carvings, hmmm, mate they have survived through the ages.
 
Today I will need a license to fish for my tucker,
don't want to get too much or I will get into trouble;
Trouble from the fisheries department, who only recently came to exist,
Telling us locals how much to catch does not make any sense.
 
But I will still catch enough to feed our mob;
Waiting for the knock on the door, from an official, an officer named Bob.
"How much have you caught this time buddy?" is exactly what he will say?
"Hey not much mate, I've only been fishing for half the day".
 
See a lot of things have really changed,
From the old walk-about-days, of hunting and gathering by ancient tools of the day,
To "just down the road" to the snack bar, with my Foxtel, internet and video games!
 
If I could go back, what's the one thing could I take?
I would take my batteries and video camera, because the world would never believe.
In what our Australian Aboriginal ancestors could have achieved!

Thank you Landon for sending in your poem!

Read another one?

Harvard citation

Korff, J 2018, From Past To Present, <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/arts/poems/from-past-to-present>, retrieved 19 October 2019

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