by Denis Kevans
With the recent controversy over colonial statues and the outburst of ‘The History Wars’, the poem Monuments by Denis Kevans puts into perspective that the current statues reflect the conquerors and powerful from our social system. The real monuments are the living monuments of peoples’ struggles against the system of exploitation and dispossession.
Some leave a marble monument, or a statue made of brass,
That stands in cold retirement getting tickled by the grass,
Some leave a passive portrait they’ve commissioned for a fee,
But no-one comes to sculpt or carve or paint a pic of me.
Don’t worry, I’ve been carved up by experts, not a few,
Subbies, foremen, used their knives to carve a pound or two,
I’ve been sculptured by the cleaver winds that scream up in the struts,
I’ve been painted by the mud and slush in bogging rickshaw ruts.
I am a kind of portrait if you could read between
The lines that mark my face with time and see just what they mean,
The leagues and loves and lands I’ve known, the years of wear and tear,
No gypsy woman on the earth could glean the stories there.
From the mullock-heavy rickshaw to the hook that rides with ease,
From the sucking clay-caught shovel to the steelwalk in the breeze,
From the jackpick’s gun staccato to the steady chisel chip,
I’ve worked upon my monument in a life’s apprenticeship.
From the convict’s pick-marked alphabet in the Hawkesbury river stone
To where the dogman carves his name in the concrete rise alone,
From mud in acres poured and squared to the bright mosaic eye,
I’ve worked upon my monument and build before I die.
I see your monuments displayed in cavalcades of war,
In lands where you make ashes from the courage of the poor,
In little children hobbling down to drink at sorrow’s well
Looking sadly at their faces cut to bits by petrol-gel.
I see your monuments displayed in smog-polluted air,
The wraiths of black-shawled mountains in the wake of ‘I-don’t-care’,
In oil-choked harbours, upturned fish, and nuclear-sullied seas,
In forests felled, and deserts made from the songbirds’ aviaries.
You’ve had your chance, you’ve run the world your way, we know it’s true,
Your monuments stick in the craw, the monuments to you,
We leave the cities of the world cemented with our sweat,
The cemeteries of our youthful years, but we’re not beaten yet.
For there’s a living monument to all we’ve lived and learned,
The Green Bans we’ve created and the victories we have earned,
And one day when our cities are but dust upon the air,
The pollen from our fighting hearts will bloom again somewhere.