© Brenda Joy, 2012

Winner, 2013 Graham Fredriksen Award, North Pine, Queensland.

I’ve left that place of ‘prison’ walls,
yet dreams are filled with hollow calls
from corridors of fear,
as night relives the plaintive cries
of infant cowering in disguise
of apathy’s veneer.

Survival tactics aimed to hide
the shame of being cast aside
from family and kin.
A burden borne by me alone
in empty decades to atone
for parentage of ‘sin’.

When mixed-race coupling was taboo
I wonder if my mother knew
the heritage I’d face?
With prejudice and hate so strong
no half-caste offspring could belong –
my colour meant disgrace.

“You filthy Abo.!” I would cringe,
embittered racist would impinge
abuse by slap or thud.
No need to question reasons why,
my destiny decided by
the colour in my blood.

In hand-me-downs all drably dressed
and under-fed like all the rest
– except ‘the rest’ were white –
some meagre comfort they’d derive,
a bond to help their hearts survive
their sad and sorry plight.

At least they could identify
with one another, form a tie,
a link through origin.
I learnt to show I didn’t care
that there was no-one there to share
my umber-tinted skin.

A misplaced, limbo kid like me
– part white, part Aborigine –
“Black bastard!”  my refrain.
A stigma worn like birthing mark
because my skin was shaded dark –
a pigment causing pain.

This daytime sky of peeling paint
– another cell, enforced restraint –
recalls that childhood place.
Now ‘multi-cultural’ has grown;
discrimination can’t be shown
through colour, creed or race.

Supposedly we’re ranked the same
but I can’t put aside my name,
“Black bastard!” still resounds.
Forbidden words but yet they lie
within the heart from days gone by
in night-mare’s haunted sounds.

In drunken daze of lack of worth
I curse my circumstance of birth
in soul destructive flood.
From deprivation that I knew
a hopelessness now gushes through
the colour in my blood.

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