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A Dreamtime Poem


Rae Desmond Jones (c) 2013



The poem is prominent in my forthcoming volume of New & Selected Poems - to be launched on 11 August, my birthday.  It's the first in the book. Her name (one of them) has been changed phonetically. 


Rae Desmond Jones

How then can one conceptualise death in the Wiradjuri context?

What does it mean ‘to die’?

The death to be truly afraid of is the death of sociality, which is the death of life: in other words, to be alone.  …

Not to have people at one’s funeral is the ultimate shame …

hence it is important that apologies be made to avoid the implication that one denies the value of the deceased…. 


Macdonald, G. ‘Promise Me You’ll Come to my Funeral’: Putting a Value on Wiradjuree Life Through Death, in Glaskin, K., MORTALITY, MOURNING AND MORTUARY PRACTICES IN INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIA, Ashgate Publishing, University of Western Australia, 2009.

 Joi’s apology

All of your life you had lost –

to those that hath, all shall be given,

for those what hath not, all shall be taken –

& you were taken literally from your mother

who had had her country taken from her people,

& I know that you were taken because those to whom

you were given took: how could you have learned to love?


Yet you did in the only way you could –

what else was there of no value, but your body?

you loved me, of all people - damaged

(not as much as you… ) did you know

you were my first between two fences

off a lane in Darlinghurst?


Five years later a log hit my head on a building site

& I saw double & huddled to stop the entry of other’s thoughts

so I slept on your floor but I could not be Wiradjuri –

my fate was other – you dyed your hair red

to get me back.


When you went to university & you asked

to see me on my own – despite the tremors

in the half dark room I did nothing  - perhaps I should have.

We were always children sharing a dark place.


 You took back the life you lost years ago –

I imagine you choking slowly in that dark room - Judges

know nothing of your suffering – how could they?

return to your ancestors Sister, sing with them to the arid stars.




Rae Desmond Jones (c) 2013



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