A poem by Amy Oliveiro.
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I never knew who I was until I saw him for the first time. Not a rendezvous, but the glimpse of a photograph; custom strains that I refrain from the mention of his name. He’s the Poppy I had heard of, but never met. His people hail from a place which keeps the name of a long forgotten castle, yet his mother-tongue, much older, is long lost... It was in that moment they told me, "...your Granddad was a black fella." My grandfather was from a generation, stolen. He wasn't kept from his mother or father, but he was kept from me. His story is mine, like me, they were strangers in their own home. Like me, their voices were lost, they were ejected from their homes, and finally severed from the rituals that made them who they were. Lost…his ways are lost to me. My spirit, it is deadly… yet, what I don’t know about myself could fill more books than I have words to use. I cannot speak as my family once spoke, I cannot hear as my family once listened, I cannot taste what my family once wrought. Show me the way my father’s people lived, his blackness was hidden from him, too. In my own father’s silence, he hinted at his spiritual past. He was always larger than life, tall and thin, his quiet contemplation like the meditations of an ancestor. Somehow his elder aura was less surprising than to find myself the missing piece of my own puzzle. I love to dance by firelight, yet I have never taken my place in a corroboree; am I not deadly? I respect all creatures and take them into my care, yet I have never earned a totem; am I not deadly? Show me the way my father’s people lived, His blackness was hidden from him, too. And now passion is lit/dreaming is woke; I am deadly. I choose to remember my past, I choose to remember my history. I am not black because I am the blood of my father’s father, I am black because I recognise what I lost, when we lost him to our dreams, never to return. The custodians of this culture that connects my blood to a thousand generations of living an expressive life through song, and dance, and food, and fire. On a thinly veiled horizon of the deepest haze of earth, I offer my longing for the elders I cannot name. I beg for a welcome to a country that was lifted, we demand our looted respect. Now my passion is lit, my dreaming is woke; I am deadly. What is my culture, and where is my voice? Never speak of the wanderer, whose fire marks the land against the sky. Never speak of the treaty-weavers, for whose voice spoke “Bayaami”. Never speak of the children, for they were elders long before their heads were taken. Never speak of the saviours, those who gave treaty. Never speak of the elder, our wisdom was bound in hers. Never speak of our totem, it is hidden, not lost! Never speak of our broken, they were whole once, they are whole again. Never speak of our assimilation, try as they might, they cannot erase the truth.