Poem #29: Last of his Tribe by Oodgeroo Noonuccal

oodgeroo_noonuccal

First, a recommendation. If you are interested in Australian literature, then please check out Whispering Gums and ANZ LitLovers LitBlog.  These two wonderful blogs are to be commended for the excellent job that they do promoting Australian literature.

Whispering Gums runs  a weekly feature  titled “Monday musings on Australian literature”. The second installment of this series focused on the works of Indigenous writers including the poet and activist Oodgeroo Noonuccal (1920 – 1993). She was also a campaigner for the rights of Indigenous peoples.  Loss, especially cultural loss, is a frequent theme in her poetry.  This week’s poem is a tribute to Willie Mackenzie who was a “full-blood Aboriginal and the last surviving member of the Darwarbada people of the Caboolture district. He died in 1968, age unknown but probably in the eighties.”

Last of his Tribe

Change is the law. The new must oust the old.
I look at you and am back in the long ago,
Old pinaroo lonely and lost here
Last of your clan.
Left only with your memories, you sit
And think of the gay throng, the happy people,
The voices and the laughter
All gone, all gone,
And you remain alone.

I asked and you let me hear
The soft vowelly tongue to be heard now
No more for ever. For me
You enact old scenes, old ways, you who have used
Boomerang and spear.
You singer of ancient tribal songs,
You leader once in the corroboree,
You twice in fierce tribal fights
With wild enemy blacks from over the river,
All gone, all gone. And I feel
The sudden sting of tears, Willie Mackenzie
In the Salvation Army Home.
Displaced person in your own country,
Lonely in teeming city crowds,
Last of your tribe.

– by Oodgeroo Noonuccal

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8 comments

    • Yes, Nana. Noonuccal’s poetry deals with a lot of loss; of culture, or land, or sense of self even. Something that most of us in Ghana could not even relate to.

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  1. Oh, good for you Kinna. And thanks for the commendation and link. You chose a great poem – particularly meaningful for me as I knew Caboolture in my childhood, and only 4 years ago we held my uncle’s funeral service there.

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    • Ah, thank you for your series. I’m trying o spread the poetry love around as many countries as possible. So your feature on Monday was quite timely. I’m glad the poem had personal meaning for you. I’m very impressed with how Noonuccal imbues her poetry with her politics.

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      • Yes, that appeals to me too. Like protest folk songs, poetry like this can be very powerful too. And, I do like your poetry series…and love the fact that your are sharing the love around!

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