Monday, January 28, 2013

my mama was black, dadda a scotsman

Yesterday Neil Whitfield and Winton Bates came to lunch, the first time Winton and I had met for a long time. Winton on the left, Neil right.P1010129 This was the first time that Winton and Neil had met.

As I can and when I can, I am slowly bringing together the people in our little blogging village. Winton and I were co-editors of Neucleus, The University of New England student newspaper. Neil and I met as bloggers via the death of Australian playwright Alex Buzo.  

As you might expect,  it was a wide ranging conversation that gave us all great pleasure.

Over lunch, Neil gave me approval to reproduce one of his 1983 poems. You will find the background story here. I hope that you enjoy the poem as much as I did. To my knowledge, it's very true, although the ending was happier than you might think from the poem itself. 

Marie: Glebe 1983
(for the “stolen generation”)

my mama was black
dadda a scotsman

in the home there was a flower
it woke us up

see here it is

and here’s one i’m saving for matron
(i loved you matron)
i’ll write a book for matron

she’s gone now
they say she died

i think i will come back to her

she said “you’re in trouble, marie”
she said “have the baby”
(i was nineteen or twenty)

i know all about cocks
men can be cheeky
but the girls are worse
two backyard jobs

matron’s gone now
see her flower?
i’ve pressed it for her

i’m forty-two years old i am nothing
a woman not married in this society
is nothing

my dream is to get married
i said to matron
“i will have babies for you”


i’ll give up smoking
i must control the grog
but when my head’s upset i need a beer

the pub is good
nobody looks down on you there

i hope my joseph is happy
he chose his family
and thomas
where is thomas?

there have been too many men

i’ll go picking again
on the riverina

this is not my place

this is a dead end street this is a dead man’s house
but there is a lane

they call me

words are very powerful
you must be careful how you use them

do the children still read?

the television
i got mine at the hock shop forty bucks
it freaks me out


i see myself and matron and joseph and thomas
i learn a lot
it freaks me out


this is not my place
my head hurts here

all that fucking going on
over my head

i’ve never hurt no-one
let them kill me it’s good
it doesn’t matter
i’ve never hurt no-one
but i’ve been hurt

do you know my dream?

this is my dream
i’ll have a coffee shop
and there will be little huts
and no-one will be turned away

we did that once
had pillows all over the house

i learned
and elocution

i’ll get up early and get a job
it’s good i reckon
will be good
after christmas
next year
i’ll leave this place

but it’s good
i reckon

see this flower?
i’m saving it for matron
and here is the one
that woke us in the home

my dadda was a scotsman
my mama was black

Copyright Neil Whitfield 1983


Anonymous said...

Beautiful, sad, haunting words. Said with great respect for the poet.


Jim Belshaw said...

I am so glad that you like the poem, kvd. I think that it's quite wonderful.

Rummuser said...

I didn't know of this side to Neil. Thank you.

Winton Bates said...

It was indeed a pleasant afternoon, Jim - and it was good to meet Neil.

Having now read his poem I am glad he told us that the story does not end as sadly as we might expect

Jim Belshaw said...

Ramana, one of the nice things about blogging as with all human contact are the interesting and unexpected things we learn. Very few people actually have uninteresting lives, although you have to be interested to see this!

Jim Belshaw said...

Thank you, Winton. We must get Neil to tell us the real ending of the story!