Katoomba poem

                               Katoomba, (view from Leura), Autumn 2007

Sydney poet Adam Aitken has written a poem set in Katoomba, a tourist town in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. He says - It is an allegory about the "history wars" debate, in which one side is the voice of white settler descendants who deny their complicity in the colonisation of the country and their part in the decline of Indigenous power. This suggests to me an image of the Garden gnome (the white settler) standing next to a stereotype "Native". Together they claim a false mateship and solidarity which the migrant/cosmopolitan stranger will never have. (The strange tourist only wants a view, some fresh air and peace and quiet, not politics.) A poem about (not)belonging (once again!)


While jogging
on a freezing winter's morning
history never feels
cleaner or more

than a 1950s
catalogue of multiplying accents
at Echo Point's landscape exclusive -
having settled here
for the "cure "
for walks, bush, art and open fire,
in short
for a sense of belonging.

After a couple of months of thinking
you are tolerance incarnated
you pass
a loin-clothed Aborigine
standing with a spear
on one leg
next to a white garden gnome
sharing smokes and taking in the view

as if they owned the place

and they'd seen you coming
and stared,
and knew all about you
a thousand years
as if they owned the place
one thousand years

                                            Adam Aitken, Glebe, Summer 2006

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