Social Justice Poetry

Neil Creighton

The Dream Thieves | A Social Justice Poem by Neil Creighton

In sleep I saw a House of Dreams,
golden doors open wide,
liberty written on its walls,
equality glowing inside.

Then came the smiling thieves
in tailored suits and ties,
deceitful intent glibly oiled
by their well practised lies.

Inside, they plundered all its treasure,
stripped all the jewelled beams,
carried away the golden orbs
that lit the House of Dreams.

They left the merest appearance,
a painted, empty facade,
and everything that they spewed out
was stained deceptive fraud.

I awoke drenched and shivering
from the horror I had seen,
blood now oozing through the door
of the ruined House of Dreams.

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Advertisement | A Social Justice Poem by Neil Creighton

For sale,
Planet Earth,
The Solar System,
Orion Arm,
The Milky Way.

This planet,
filled with abundant life
and suggestion of spirit-force,
is slightly used
but has great potential.

Prospective buyers will notice
some wear at the Poles,
difficulty with the air-conditioning,
considerable habitat loss,
coral bleaching,
and species extinction
due to short-term thinking
from the dominant species.

Repairable with care and planning,
the site retains much natural beauty.
In particular, the dome
remains largely untouched,
ethereal blue by day,
stained-glass beauty
morning and evening,
diamond-studded velvet quilt at night.
Other features include
snow capped mountains,
vast oceans that crash on cliffs
or curl and slap on sand,
rivers that rush, fall, roar, meander,
and a dazzling array of vegetation
too varied to list.

But hurry.
A myopic beast called “Corporation”,
caring little for plunder and greatly for profit,
is intent on consuming everything in the yard.

All responsible buyers are welcome.
Please organise inter-galactic
visiting rights before inspection.

Rottnest Island | A Social Justice Poem by Neil Creighton

The wind blows across the dunes,
low trees and shallow lakes.
It doesn’t weep or cry aloud
but it should.
The swells roll across the sea,
curl in foam then slap on the white sand.
They have neither words nor tears
but they should.
The luxury boats bob at their moorings,
and the restaurants stare out to sea.
They do not weep or cry aloud
but they should.
Should they not weep for the 369
indigenous men and boys
perished from disease, malnourishment
or the cruel violence of guards?
Should they not weep for the 3700
indigenous men and boys
cramped in fetid cells now converted
to luxury accommodation?
Should they not weep for men
ripped from the Karri forests of the south,
or the red soil of the north
and imprisoned on this low island?
Should they not weep
for these soft eyed men
with their bleak and hollow stares
and for all the horror of humanity’s history?
But always the wind blows across the dunes
and still the waves slap on the white sand.
They have neither tears to weep nor words to lament
but surely they should.

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Rottnest Island is a popular holiday resort situated 18 kilometres west of Fremantle, the port for Perth, capital of Western Australia. Daily, ferries take crowds out to the island and there is little remaining evidence of its sad history. From 1838 to 1931 Rottnest was a prison for Aborigines, taken from all over the large state of Western Australia. The airless, untoileted cells, into which seven men were cramped, were a tiny 1.7m x 3.00m. One in 10 of the prisoners died on the island and lie buried there in unmarked graves.

A Man in Dachau | A Social Justice Poem by Neil Creighton

In a dream I saw a man in Dachau
give his last morsel of bread
to one he thought was suffering more.
I heard his thoughts.
“I am no mere plaything of circumstance.
They can take my life but not
the freedom to choose my way.”

I rushed to tell my friends
that choice determines who we are,
proof sufficient being in Dachau
a man chose compassion over self.

One friend replied:
“Noble indeed is such a one.
Heroes make these choices.
The exception though is not the rule.
Choice is circumscribed by circumstance
and eliminated for most by horror of place.”

Another then spoke:
“Oppression’s boot can find the weight
To crush all choice away.
Was that man’s compassion an act of choice?
I rather think it a gift of grace.”

The man from Dachau then appeared
to confirm my friends were right.
“The parade”, he said, “is unendingly long
of those who shuffle by –
starving children, women beaten,
the tortured, guiltless and cruelly oppressed,
the dispossessed, the mind manacled,
the legions of the poor.
I merely do what I must do.
Those who can, should follow.”


Rock Dreaming | A Social Justice Poem by Neil Creighton

I walk past water gums,
roots twisting and flowing over rock,
past the creek’s eddy and swirl,
past deep grooves in rock
made long ago by sharpening spears.
Is that the laughter of naked children?
No. They are long gone,
now only imagination’s shadows
flitting through scrub.

I scramble up a long hill
to stand on a huge expanse of rock.
The world seems quiet and still.
All around in the stone are carvings-
kangaroos, emus, women, men, shields, spears,
a great spirit creature.
I imagine clans of Dharug people meeting here
to dance, laugh, cry, draw, worship, wonder,
and most of all, to belong.
Do I sense them?
That is a lie.
Their culture, life, laughter and song
have shrunk into the past.
They seem long gone.

I lie on the rock and close my eyes.
Underneath my back
are curving patterns in rock.
I see cloud, rain, sun’s rising, sun’s falling, moon, stars,
the diamond quilt of night.
I see people greet, paint their bodies, tell stories, dance, sing,
belong, feel purpose, feel love, draw and carve.
I am filled with loss for the changes of time,
for the tangle of history,
for the injustice of the present,
for prejudice, dislocation, theft and murder,
and I know that where they,
in such deep belonging, did roam,
my ancestors, England’s rejects,
came from the other side of the world
to claim it as their own.

The sun is low.
I begin the long walk back.
As I walk I am moved by the knowledge
that Dharug people are still living,
scattered through the land of their ancestors
and although the past cannot be changed,
its loss and sorrow should be sung.
I am taken too by the crazy dream
of a single people
meeting under these southern stars,
upon the great patterned rock of this land
to draw, dance, embrace and sing together

as I descend into a gully
and the sun disappears
and the single evening star
hangs low in the darkening sky.

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The Earth Speaks | A Social Justice Poem by Neil Creighton

I gave you all, said “Come, lie with me,
on me, in me, by me, through me,
gaze upon me, caress me.
I give you life and beauty too —
all I have is yours to share
but please place me gently in your care.”

But you have torn my garments,
stolen my jewels, scarred my face,
besmeared and besmirched my skin,
groped and gouged my secret parts —
your rule, cruel, your treatment, rough,
so insatiable you can never get enough.

I writhe and cry out in protest.
I heave and crack,
send mighty tempests.
I stop the rain.
I send parching heat.
I must struggle and strive
and cry for help.

I plead too, say,
“Come, repent, be my friend,
be tender, gentle, make amends,
it is not yet too late to start again.
Think for a moment of the future.
Those children left will bemoan your folly,
and, despairing about their hope and fate,
curse your abusive misrule,
and you for being a short-sighted fool.”

O can we not live together?
I give you life and beauty.
Can you then not care for me,
love me, work with me
or must I, at last, finally, regretfully,
in deepest sorrow
turn my back and put you out?

When I walked beside the magnificent Aletsch Glacier in Switzerland, saw how much it had retreated, read about the speed with which this is happening, heard the glib pronouncements from politicians, I was moved by the idea of how exploitative we humans are and our need to act to protect the earth, the only home we will ever have. This poem and its abusive metaphor is the result.

The Eureka Stockade | A Social Justice Poem by Neil Creighton

The Eureka Flag
(An Australian Dream)

In a wooden stockade the flag they raised —
the southern sky with a cross of silver stars —
declared an egalitarian dream, a new land
where inheritance would never decree
the measure of any individual’s worth
and that any child’s opportunity
should never be limited by wealth or birth.
It was never much more than a dream,
— for sadly there are always the dispossessed
and, for those men, the indigenous and women
were not amongst the reasons for their unrest —
but dreams are much more than mere seeming.
They set a standard for what we think best.
From the blood spilled for this dreaming
into the national consciousness came the idea
that this land would not be based on class
and under the cross of stars and southern sun
a new world of equality of opportunity
could be freely available for everyone.

That flag remains, its vibrance faded,
its corners ragged, torn and worn by time.
It is still the silver stars on deepest blue
but the dream for which it flew
is shredded beyond tatters.
Base and cunning men in their lust for power
have laid siege to the stockade,
with low guile infiltrated the ideals,
besmirched the fragment of justice and fairness
with crass and loathsome things of their invention.
Is “aspirational” now our highest aim?
Is our best a narrow, shallow commercialism,
a smug, mean-spirited complacency,
a relentless seeking for personal advantage,
a competitive pursuit of possessions,
the tiny idea of “relaxed and comfortable”
in a new, divided and insular hierarchy where
worth and opportunity is unequally proportioned
and power and privilege is the real mantra
behind a sad, diminished and empty “monetocracy”?

But Listen! Listen to this land! It speaks!
Its eucalyptus scent, colour, heat haze,
its great brilliant blue beauty of sky,
its stars’ glorious evening blaze,
its distant blue of low mountains,
its tangle and twist of scrub and tree,
its rollers crashing upon the coast,
are crying out for more than mediocrity.
O my country, Wake! Throw off these shackles!
Rebuild your stockade! Dream of great things!
Raise your flag! Let equality of opportunity
again soar high on justice’s wings!
Reclaim the dream! You have the power,
the vote for which the Eureka Flag flew.
It was institutionalised privilege
against which they fought and railed.
Demand equality of opportunity
for all children of this great south land.
Raise again their dream and their flag.
Let children grow together under this southern sun,
this evening blue crossed with silver stars.
Let equality of opportunity be for everyone.