Of all the poems we have looked at in the past two weeks (both in the lectures and tutorials) which struck home more forcibly for you? Can you say why? Give a short synopsis of what it was about the poem that touched your thoughts and/or feelings.
A Letter To My Mother
I not see you long time now, I not see you long time now
White fulla bin take me from you, I don’t know why
Give me to Missionary to be God’s child.
Give me new language, give me new name
All time I cry, they say – ‘that shame’
I go to city down south, real cold
I forget all them stories, my Mother you told
Gone is my spirit, my dreaming, my name
Gone to these people, our country to claim
They gave me white mother, she give me new name
All time I cry, she say – ‘that shame’;
I not see you long time now, I not see you long time now…
This poem impacted me more than I expected on a very personal level. Eva Johnson has given a rather personal account on the issues that were faced by the Stolen Generation (1910 – 1970) and voices the political and social strains that were current in Australia at that specific period. Her vivid use of simple imagery in the lines:
“…White fulla bin take me from you…”
“…I go to city down south, real cold…”
“…They gave me white mother, she give me new name…”
The emphasis on the motif of the colour ‘white’ made me cringe in apprehension at the sheer knowledge of the emotional and psychological damage that had been inflicted on innocent children such as the persona in this poem.
The biblical references/allusions of ‘God’s child,’ ‘Mother’ and ‘Missionary’ sets off the alarm bell screaming-*beep, beep beep* WARNING: ASSIMILATIOOOONNNNNNNNNNNNN! *utter chaos in the background* The dead-set intention of enforcing foreign religious practices on a child is beyond rude and damaging to their conscience. It’s practically a free ticket to buying their own displacement.
Furthermore, the haunting repetition of the phrase- “… I not see you long time now, I not see you long time now…”- illustrates the aftermath of the torn connection between a child and a mother. This is also another indication of further inducing the disconnection between the child and her cultural origin, leaving her bare and exposed to the unknown. The repetition of the word ‘gone’ and ‘give’ are reminders of the things that have been taken away from them as a child, and what has been given to them as a replacement.
Also, the daunting misuse of grammar is a clear indication of the lack of knowledge that the stolen children have despite, their supposed elevated ‘social status’ and ‘improved’ living privileges among the white civilisation. This adds to the lack of consciousness of the white populace towards the indigenous people.
The harsh reality behind this poem definitely troubles the minds of the readers- heck, my mind is still troubled from reading this bloody poem! *sighs dramatically*
On a more personal note, this poem helped reveal to me the true extent of the trauma that was faced by the Stolen Generation. It hit a little close to home specifically in line 5- “…All time I cry, they say- ‘that shame’…’ Although I am pretty sure my reasoning behind why I found this line very touching is definitely unrelated to the concept of the Stolen Generation but, it got to me all the same. That line instantly reminded me of a childhood memory when I got lost in woollies when I was six. I cried and cried whilst walking around the place in search of my mother.
Despite my happy little ending
(my mum found me and pulled me by the ear to the car for a thorough scolding), that line had brought to me that memory specifically because, to some degree (maybe not as extreme as the experience of the Stolen Children) I know what it had felt like to be separated from my mother at such a young and innocent age. It is quite hard for me to fathom how difficult it must have been for the children to be parted with their mothers and fathers. Some children may not even know who their real mothers are- and that is what saddens me the most.
Featured Image: https://www.nla.gov.au/digital-classroom/year-10/the-1967-referendum/timeline
PS. I do apologise if there are grammatical and punctuation errors in there somewhere *face palms*