Grey House – What the Heck am I Rambling About? #9

‘Grey House’ takes on the persona of a young child who eagerly goes into a new home, an apartment complex, with their mother. Rather quickly, the child becomes exposed to harsh realities and becomes disillusioned with the excitement of moving to a new place, and the conditions that led them there.

What the Heck am I Rambling About is a series of blog posts where I breakdown a work I have created and shared. You can read the poem here if you aren’t caught up!

Someone has commented that these series of blog posts and the Author’s comments section are going to be useful tools for HSC students in the future. A very flattering comment and I think when I did the HSC I would have loved it if the people I was writing about how done a blog series like that. Alas, the prescribed texts were all mostly dead white men.

Set out – almost barefoot. Along my journey

on the cigarette path, I met Crystal, Molly,

was tracked by a Dragon and became BFs with Mary Jane.

Stanza 5

There is only two stanzas that have the optimistic tone, perhaps misguiding the reader due to the child’s curiosity. When the child’s life starts to break down, she becomes systematically disempowered, first starting with the bare necessities such as electricity and then at school by teachers who punish them for being late, not at the fault of the child. Those who the child meets on the way aren’t people but the code names for different drugs. The child being Best Friends with Mary Jane (Marijuana) is a comment of how this unregulated use for people in such fragile states can act as a gateway drug. The reader can take away what that type of relationship would be for a young person. Is Best Friend also someone for life in this instance, denoting a pessimistic point of view that they cannot escape? Or, like a fleeting childhood friendship, will the child escape it eventually?

I had to leave that woman when I came of age.

For she said we’d be home by autumn’s end.

Stanza 6

When I Came of Age” is subjective. Does she mean when she became an adult? Or when the child could legally move on from her mother at the age of 16 (in many western countries)? Or perhaps when she realised when her mother wasn’t good for her. The term Autumn’s end is meant to symbolise that this move was supposed to be a grace period in the mind of the child. The excitement of a new place perhaps shadowed the permanency of such a living situation the child was not ready for. The line also shows that there was a desire to return to the past life, before the Grey House. However, like a great number of cases, this return isn’t always as conceptualised. Referring to her here as that woman is the last time she is given a gendered identity. When the mother becomes labelled as parent at the end, it is revealed that the child still conceptualises somewhat of a caretaker role, but not in the typical narrative of the maternal bonds.

She was neither the executioner nor the criminal

but the wife of the bread-thief.

Stanza 7

Throughout the poem, there’s no direct attack against the mother, just comments about the unruly life. As the child ‘grows up’ they become more aware of her mother’s context. The child expresses sympathy for her mother, which is captured in this line. The metaphor of the bread-thief alludes to their situation, which suggests that her previous father did petty crime to support their family, which has led to the current life. The mother was responsible for the situation or the person who created the situation. In the same way, the child is linked to her mother as they are not responsible. Although neither are deserving of the ‘Grey House’, they both end up in that life, a sad common tragedy experienced by people with similar hardships.

This poem has been heavily inspired by my social work experience. This is perhaps the most tangible of the ‘Autumn, That Bastard’ collection. To leave you with some thoughts think:

  • What happens now to the girl? What happens to the mother?
  • Is this a cyclical life-event, like the season of Autumn? Or has the child realised their predicament and overcome it?

I hope you enjoyed this rambling and you can find some more ramblings below.

Acknowledgement of Country – Why it matters for Us (Non-Indigenous Perspective)

Recent times I have heard many differing opinions on the Acknowledgement of Country. Opinions such as why/if it should be done at meetings and when it is done.

Sometimes that it happens too much. Sometimes that it happened before and as such, not needed to happen afterwards.

If you are unsure what an Acknowledgement of Country is, it is a way to pay respect to the indigenous people who are the custodians of the land. You can see an example of one, that is very vague and all identifying, in the footer of my website.

Needless to say, if I have the desire to include it in my footer, I probably think it’s a big deal whether it’s included or not. And you are right! I think it is an extremely important way of reflecting on my sense of being, a way to communicate my values of indigenous rights and to build continual discourse on how we should be treating our indigenous friends.

In a class recently, I asked the question for a presentation if the lecturer would like us to do an Acknowledgement of Country, so it is embded with our presentation practice. (Social Work and Indigenous peoples unit just to clarify).

I thought this was a clear cut yes, but an opinion was held that perhaps one should be done at the beginning as it could potentially take up too much time for our 10-minute presentations.

If you want a practice of how long it takes, try reading out my acknowledgement of country.

acknowledge the indigenous people as the traditional custodians of the land that I work and gain knowledge on. I would like to pay my respects to Elders past, present and future .

I read this out, timed myself, slipped up on saying ‘traditional custodians’ and it took me under 10 seconds. In our 10-minute presentations, if 10 seconds can’t be given (15 maybe because i’m a fast reader) to pay respects to the longest living culture and the culture that has been subject to ‘fourth world’ conditions (Dyck, 1985), then there is a bigger semantic error that we must address in the ways we talk.

Another issue which I did not personally experience, but people have mentioned was at a cultural facilitation event. The company provided training about multiculturalism without doing an Acknowledgement of Country. The justification was that they had done it at the beginning of the year, one time.

Perhaps the intended audience of the workshop are incorporeal beings that know not the strings of time and fluctuate across the eons, searching for that one time that one white guy presented an acknowledgement of country, Jeremy Bearimy style (THE GOOD PLACE SPOILER)

Now without throwing in Doctor Who or a Delorean into the mix, we gotta understand the tokenism that comes with such a statement. To say ‘we did one already’ is another way for indigenous people to be told to ‘get over it’. It treats the act as if it is the really poorly written and unfunny bestman speech at a wedding, before the festivities (idk how weddings work tbh). That it’s something to get out of the way. Thats what both of these comments suggest.

And I hope by making this post, I try to point out that it shouldn’t be a one-time thing. That akin to New Zealands Haka, this respect should be ingrained with our national identity.

But what do you think of the Acknowledgement of Country? Particularly, I am interested in indigenous voices and if i get enough discussion with this, then I may make a follow up post. Feel free to hit me up on my social medias or by commenting.

Artwork from:
https://www.murumittigar.com.au/darug-artwork/

https://www.murumittigar.com.au/darug-artwork/