from the editor's desk

From Our Archive: ‘My Dear Child’ by Melissa Lucashenko

‘My Dear Child’ was first published in 2016, in Westerly 61.1. Melissa Lucashenko’s sixth novel, Too Much Lip, has just taken out the prestigious 2019 Miles Franklin Literary Award.

My lovely girl,

Here at river camp we is all heavy in our minds as we remember you, our little brave one. The others are still here, your brothers, your sister. We do cry out in the dark of night, and at times such as Friday when the moon was big, the warrigal answer us with howling of their own. By day all the jarjams run and climb and swim as they ever did. We hear them laughing most days and we are glad. For your father and me though, there is never no laughter.

My dear firstborn, at first I tried to forget you, fearing that I would go out of my head. I was told I must, but my heart would not allow it; and nor would the scars on the little ones faces. The petticoats that Father Ryan brung cover the worst of the pox marks now but there is a hole under Ivy’s right eye that I sometimes think could swallow me up entirely. God forgive me sometimes I wish it would.

When I came to understand that there would never be no forgetting, I prayed. And then I decided. I have seed death before, you know, child. You was not old enough to hear me tell it but I have seed death before—and worse than death.

Your second fathers and mothers, like the rest of us, go empty more days than not. I know though, they will take good mind of the jarjams and it is better I go for I am afraid of what I might do if I stay to bring the Protector down on all their necks. There is no forgetting. Tonight I will walk beneath the half-moon to town. I have the matches from Father Ryan’s altar and I go in the knowledge that a child’s place is with its mother there can be no question. Let the dogs howl as they may my step will be true and child we will meet one day in the better place, for I know god will show me mercy. They say I am disordered in my mind. I tell you I am sane as Lord Jesus himself and consoled if only a little by the words of the good book for it says—and it says truly—by their deeds shall you know them and yes they will know me and the love I did always bear for you from the very day you was took. And so until we meet again let this fire be my holy witness.

Your loving mother,


Westerly is produced on the lands of the Whadjuk Noongar peoples. We pay our respects to Elders past, present and emerging.

Westerly is supported by The University of Western Australia, Australia Council for the Arts, Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries, and Copyright Agency Cultural Fund.

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