Saltwater Mourning

A poem by Samuel McKechnie, New South Wales.

Close this Cover of Aboriginal Culture Essentials

Wishing you knew more about Aboriginal culture? Search no more.

Get key foundational knowledge about Aboriginal culture in a fun and engaging way.

This is no ordinary resource: It includes a fictional story, quizzes, crosswords and even a treasure hunt.

Stop feeling bad about not knowing. Make it fun to know better.

Sold! Show me how No, thank you


Of heart
Of mind
Of steel

Unable to

Grandfather the Wind
Grandmother the Rain,
Their lilting cadence, gentle
Dialect of spirit becoming

Torrid surge
Of anger, of sorrow
Magnified in reverberating
Echo through hollow void

Of cell
And soul.

Sunken eyes 
‘Neath heavy brow,
Summon half-forgotten apparitions
Look hard, just may

Father the Saltwater
Mother the Red-dust,
He the strong
She the elegant,

He who shapes by grains
She who bears, sustains
Sodden heat, humid embrace
Held by country, swathed in grace

No longer!
Nay, no longer

Brother the Turtle
Sister the Dugong,
Weeping saltwater
Sing lament of flesh and bone,

Of lost men

Removed from sanctuary
And briny womb
Of refuge, only bricks
And mortar here

And bars…

Of heart
Of mind 
Of steel

Samuel is a young Torres Strait and Wiradjuri man. Thank you Samuel for sending me this poem!


  • What tells this poem about the relationship of Aboriginal people to their land?
  • Feel the emotions expressed in this poem. What are they? What caused them?
  • Research incarceration rates among Aboriginal men. How relates this poem to those statistics?

Read another one?

Cite this page

Korff, J 2020, Saltwater Mourning, <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/arts/poems/saltwater-mourning>, retrieved 29 May 2024

Creative Spirits is a starting point for everyone to learn about Aboriginal culture. Please use primary sources for academic work.

Join thousands of Smart Owls who know more!