In Australia, during the nineteenth century, there was a hidden frontier war against the aboriginal tribes as the settlers pushed into the interior. Aborigines from other tribes were often used as troops, because they could be particularly ruthless against their former enemies. The polite word “dispersal” became a euphemism for “slaughtered”.
THE DISPERSALS OF THE NATIVE POLICE
No-one now thought that dispersal
meant anything other than killed.
Judith Wright, The Cry for the Dead
The first thing dispersed
was the skin
of the shoulder or neck –
this in a spray of bright red
over seedheads and grasses.
Consciousness ended, another
unique intersection of moiety, totem,
dispersed into air.
The stiff weight of flesh
was dispersed by the dingoes and grubs.
Quietly, sunlight and rain worked away
at the unstudied angles of bones.
Still the dispersals continued:
memory, mindfulness, frayed into blanks
in the choices and shifts of white stories –
so new owners, taking the view,
might walk with a spring to their step –
might breathe deep – as if this land came free.