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HEADSTONES AND CHATTELS ‘Twas pure chance that I discovered Just the other day, A place passed Countless times, Never had the thought of calling in, Inner thoughts and misplaced fears Oh there must have been countless other reasons For one to just go there inside, But however on this particular day, I stopped, I looked, Then summoned up some kind of an internal fortitude And through a pair of rusty creaking gates I entered and embraced Another forgotten time, Inside the local cemetery In a forgotten part of town Where on first appearances Overgrown, Untidy, Forgotten, Ignored, By many who live in luxury? In this pioneer town Where homes of bricks and mortar Have become the order of the day. This township When first settled, After pushing the aboriginals out, By European immigrants Who fled the persecution? And slaughter Of their ancient homelands, Being wrapped And raped in revolution, And then there was no other choice, Escape by rolling wooden ships Canvas sails in providential winds Then landing in, An unknown foreign land On high tide in Hobson’s bay A new home land called Australia Way back in eighteen fifty four. Through overgrown unmowed grass That crinkled neath my feet, My aimless wanderings took me past The history of my district, With headstones marking Anointed spots in the ground The words of each Meant much more Telling tales from the past Of persons now lying In final resting places below, An immigrant, A seeker escaping personal grief, A mother, A father, A child born out of wedlock, Now in here a pioneer true blue. Reading inscriptions imprinted Sometimes, Not quite having an understanding, But for sure, One thing more than anything else Telling briefly of tales that said Of what life was all about? In bygone days Where women were seemingly treated Harshly, Like slaves, For dominant overbearing masters, Second class citizens, Chattels to be owned and conquered Who sole purpose in life? For me it seemed, They to be the bearer, Of many children And then some more, Then packed it in To die at an early age. Then without a sound I stopped, Pausing Before a dirt burial ground mound, An ancient looking headstone marking The recipient of being mouldy grey, For at an awkward angle It leant backwards, For it was up close I realized that I needed to be To read, To take in the inscription chiseled there, “Our dearly departed Mother Theresa Henrietta Alice Who died when bearing another? Already a mother of fifteen kids This beloved chattel Of husband Alfred George Now gone home to glory Into the arms of an Almighty God.” So thus I say to you It wasn’t that long ago When a woman had kids She had one on her apron strings, A second with a snotty nose on her hip Another with dirty diapers Another child protruding from an ever growing stomach, This body of hers taken for granted To be a chattel Often not of her choosing, Abused and taken for pleasure By he who goes by the title “Her Old man or the master of the house.” Then quite often, At a relatively young age When sometimes tears were shed, For this woman buried there Frequently for this child of God RELIEF! From the pain of childbirth, That only a woman, A wife, A mother, An indentured servant girl, A chattel, Could ever experience A joy of motherhood. In this afternoon embrace, As time slowly passed Reading inscriptions there For me it seemed to be That one after another, From decade to decade, These stone memorials Were the remembrance Of a forgotten what went before, That recorded Our sometimes chequered history, For indeed there were the Chattels The brides to be Of prominent pioneer males Who suffered indeed of pain? Mostly now for these pioneering mums Where is her headstone Proclaiming her to be a Chattel? Probably housed in forgotten patch Known locally as the Cemetery Where you enter through creaky gates. Francis Cooper – Mac

Copyright © | Year Posted 2020

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