AH, WHITE MAN, HAVE YOU ANY SACRED SITES?

Ah, white man, I am searching for the sites, sacred to you, where you walk, in silent worship, and you whisper poems, too, where you tread, like me, in wonder, and your eyes are filled with tears, and you see the tracks you've travelled down your fifty thousand years.

I am searching round Australia, I am searching, night and day, for a site, to you so sacred that you won't give it away for a bit of coloured paper, say a Church you're knocking down, or the Rocks, your nation's birthplace, by the bridge, in Sydney town.
Your cathedrals I have entered, I have seen the empty aisles where a few knelt down in sorrow, where were all the children's smiles?

Big cathedrals, full of beauty, opal glass, and gleaming gold, and an old man, in an overcoat, who had crept in from the cold.
Your schools, I drifted through them, heard the sound of swishing canes, heard the yell of angry teachers crushing flowers in their brains, heard the bark up on the rostrum where the powers had their say, wouldn't children's hearts be sacred, though they're made, like mine, of clay?

Where's your wonder? Where's your worship? Where's your sense of holy awe?

When I see those little children torn apart by fear of war, what is sacred to you, white man, what is sacred to your clan?
Are your totems rainbow-feathered? Is there dreaming in you, man?

Sacred ... sacred ... sacred ... gee you chuck that word about, and when echoes answer sacred ... sacred louder still you shout, and the echoes come in patterns, and then, louder, every one till they meet, like waves together, and go bang! just like a gun.

Sacred ... hesitating ... now, a film is reeling through my brain, and through my memory, of our sacred rendez-vous, of our meeting, of our parting, of my tears, as sweet as ice, of my numb incomprehension of a shattered paradise.

Sacred, oh so sacred, was our sacred rendez-vous, and your ferocious anger when you found we weren't like you, but if I should make an act of faith, in a voice, both firm and clear, that there's something sacred to me, you starting drowning in your beer.
What is sacred to you, white man, what is sacred to your heart?

Is Australia just a quarry for the bauxite bells to start?

Where the forests are forgotten, and the tinkling of the bell of the bell-bird in the mountains, is just something more to sell?

Ah, brother, I am searching for the sites, sacred to you, but the rivers, clear as crystal, smell like sewerfulls of spew from the pipe and pump polluters, and the nukes that fleck the foam, Would you let a man, with dirty boots, go walking through your home?

Sacred means that ... sacred ... it's a place where spirits rise, with the rainbow wings of sunset, on the edge of paradise, Sacred ... that's my father, that's my mother, that's my son, Sacred .. where the dreaming whispers hope for everyone.

In the silence of the grottoes of Australia's mighty land, stand together with the kooris, stand together, hand in hand, open eyes to endless beauty, and to spirits, far and near, for Australia is my country, it is sacred to me here.

Ah, white man, I am searching for the sites, sacred to you, where you walk, in silent worship, and you whisper poems, too, where you tread, like me, in wonder, and your eyes are filled with tears, and you see the tracks you've travelled down your fifty thousand years.

by Denis Kevans (1939-2005)

From the Book: "Ah, White Man, Have You Any Sacred Sites?", 1985 [ISBNO 9593 073].

It was written by Denis Kevans as a reply to Hugh Morgan (Western Mining Company) when he accused Aboriginals of being "pagans" for opposing the Noonkanbah mining project in 1984. Go to for more information. Sophia Kevans welcomes the republishing of this poem in memory of her father with full acknowledgement and a printed (or taped) copy sent to 63 Valley Road, Wentworth Falls, NSW 2782. All Rights Reserved.