In a long monologue set in 1956 near the end of the play, Ern explained that he returned to Australia and overcame much of his trauma from the war until World War Two, when his side started “oozing that lovely rich black blood” and he soon discovered a number of old bullet shards stuck deep inside. They came out slowly, over years, and he gave them to his grandchildren as gifts. This monologue uses physical injury as a metaphor for the long-term, gradual suffering of trauma, even if one represses it immediately upon arriving home; this is a commentary not only on the individual experience of war, but also on the way it is passed on to family (as Ern gives the bullet shards out as a reminder of his sacrifice) and society as a whole. In this latter sense, it is a commentary on the play itself, which seeks to dig up the buried relics of a collective injury that was never acknowledged in the war’s own aftermath. It is also a commentary on the uses of history—there is no doubt that the shards come out during World War Two because that is when the lessons of World War One become salient, and that this play in turn hopes to inform the future of Indigenous politics and Indigenous literature alike in Australia.
Ern’s Bullet Shards Quotes in Black Diggers
I reached round and felt just here under that scar and yep it was oozing that lovely rich black blood you know not the fairy light stuff close to the surface skin blood no this was that dark dark blood that comes from deep and has been there for ages, you know? […] You see, when there’s been a war there’s metal everywhere, just tons of it and it gets buried in the mud and the dirt and it gets forgotten.