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by Terry McArthur 2 years ago in performance poetry

A Sorry Poem



Two hundred years of segregation, separation and genocide.

History has a habit of weaving faction and fiction into a taught myth. From Australia Day to Anzac Day our myth-making, flag waving, icon shaping national celebrations have been a finely honed product of a distorted imagination - fed by the DNA of colonisation, racism, and the exoteric disease of Christian self-entitlement.

"Big Trouble" is my take on the 26th January 1788. The music was written and arranged by Phil Rigger with a special thanks to Bruce Carr for his inspired didge playing.

The video was shot by Brandon Batton at Art Equity in Sydney at the combined launch of Deborah Young's Meditations exhibition and the launch of my poetry book Walking Skin.


Long time this one been walking

Longer than the sun upon the mountain

Longer than the root of mangrove tree

Longer than the smell of rain on dry earth

This one his feet are mighty sore

But this one he does not rest

He carries the unbroken song of the land

This one he has mighty big lungs for this singing

He knows his tired old feet must do the walking

There is the singing and his land is in this singing

No matter what time of night or day

This one for sure was there that very first time

Sniffing out gunpowder and smallpox

He saw that Arthur Phillip squinting in the heat

Looking for fresh water and farmland

He knew that man was big trouble alright

Handing out rows of pretty beads

That one Arthur Phillip he had a job to do no worries

His long time sailing was not for nothing no way

He was loaded up with maps and ambition

He was stuffed with religion and empire

That Arthur Phillip he knew what he was doing

This one he was with that Eora mob sucking on crayfish

Watching from the long grass when that Arthur Phillip landed

He didn’t need no compass to tell which way the musket pointed

He sung in Dharug tongue soft words of the long time passing

He sang in Cadigal tongue hard words of the tall ships coming

This one sang among their fishing grounds and forests

His lungs a tidal wash of reckoning

His walking skin among the shadows of the inlets

His old man’s feet making tracks along the beaches

He was sniffing out the wind of dispossession

He was watching history break upon the shores

© Big Trouble (McArthur-Rigger) Blue Pearl Music.


" I am from the same source that has given birth to the poems of Rumi, Hafez, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Allan Ginsberg, the bhakti poets of India, the Zen poets of Japan, the American Indian shamans, the sacred songlines of my country's first Australians."

Terry McArthur is an Australian performance poet. His works have been published, performed and recorded in Australia, the UK, Europe and the USA. He is the author of 3 books of poetry, 5 plays and over 300 songs.


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