Weaving Lessons (on Genocide)

by Natalie Harkin


1.   prepare the reeds
     work light with swift fingers
     gather stories with each thread
     weave through night 

     carry what you can
          food - tools - babies
     don’t spill a drop
     when it’s time to run

                here they come  
                here they come

     wait for clever winds
     to carry your smoke signals
     subvert and deflect
     bide more time 

     sharpen flints with your senses
     cover your tracks
     disappear with the sun
     prepare for blood 

               they’re here
               they’re here

2.   I smell your reeds burning
     as they cloak you with blankets
     gifted with smallpox
     to blister your skin

     I hear red cliffs wailing
     a ration-station’s offering
     arsenic-laced flour
     to convulse your gut

     I cry you a flood
     as they boil your tea
     from strychnine-waterholes
     to choke your breath

              I am falling  
              I am falling

     in fields of grief
     I trip on your bones
     trace your flesh
     catch your last breath

     I search for your baskets
     to carry your hearts
     gather what’s left
     before they burn

3.   blood from my grandmother’s womb
     feeds my babies
     they kick to survival songs
     before they swallow the air

             rise up
             rise up

     burn the old blankets
     the old-ration-stations
     track down the waterholes
     cleanse them with your dreams

     prepare new reeds
     let your ancestors guide
     weave them their story
     with poetry and love 

     weave them strong to carry
     the weight of our truth
     then thread them with hope
     to lighten your load 

             it’s time
             it’s time.




Natalie Harkin is a Narungga woman from the Chester family in South Australia.  She is activist-poet and academic, and her words have been installed in exhibitions comprising text-object-video projection. She has been a column writer for Overland and her first poetry manuscript, Dirty Words, was published by Cordite Books in 2015.

Issue 9: NATIONS, November 2016.