“Time is Running Out” is written by Oodgeroo Noonuccal, an author and politician who is most commonly lauded as the first Aboriginal poet to publish a collection of verse. She is also an active campaigner for Aboriginal civil rights. The theme of many of her works is the hope for understanding and peace between black and white Australians. In “Time is Running Out”, Oodgeroo expresses her criticism towards the irresponsible miners who exploited and violently destructed her land “[f]or the sake of greedy trade” and “[f]or the sake of the filthy dollar” (5, 13).
Moreover, she also encourages the native Australians to fight back and stand up to protect their land. The poem consists of three stanzas and there are no set meter or rhyme scenes in this poem although there are lines that rhyme. Oodgeroo represents this poem using visual imagery. Throughout the poem, Oodgeroo uses many vivid metaphors and hyperbole which make us clearly feel the anger and bitterness in her tone.
The first stanza illustrates how the miners extract oil and minerals from the earth using various mining equipments:
The miner rapes
The heart of earth
With his violent spade
Stealing, bottling her black blood
For the sake of greedy trade.
The first three lines contain of enjambments which somehow reflect the still ongoing memories of the poet. “The miner rapes / The heart of earth” (1, 2) is a metaphor for the excessive mining activity that is happening in Oodgeroo’s land. “The heart of earth” is a personification for natural resources.
The fourth line in stanza 1, “Stealing, bottling her black blood” (4) using the personification word “her” to addresses the earth. “Black blood” here can only refer to oil, as oil is black coloured liquid that extracted from the earth, and the word “blood” itself literally relate to the internal liquid in human body. Thus, “Stealing, bottling her black blood” is a metaphor for the petroleum oil drilling activity.
Notice the alliteration used in that line in which the harsh ‘b’ sounds in “bottling her black blood” (4) emphasize this point and reinforce the agony of the stanza’s tone. In this stanza, Oodgeroo also mentions that the miner “[p]iling the mountainous minerals high / On his metal throne of destruction” (8, 6). The word “mountainous” is a hyperbole and refers to the act of excessive mining activity. “Metal throne of destruction” is also a metaphor, most probably refer to a heavy mining equipment such as an excavator or a clamshell, or evenmore symbolize to the board of directors of a huge mining company.
The second stanza opens with repetitions of the first stanza’s idea, “In his greedy lust for power / He destroys old nature’s will” (10, 11). The fourth line, “He dirties the nest he builds” is a symbol of the environment destruction human caused for their own benefit. The last four lines in the second stanza illustrate human greediness furthermore. The lines are as follows:
Well he knows that violence
Of his destructive kind
Will be violently written
Upon the sands of time.
When human exploit natural resources, they already knew that the damage they caused will last forever and will not able to be repaired forever. Ironically, they refuse to think ahead, although they fully understand the consequences. The damages will affect their descendants and make them suffer, but still they don’t want to control their overwhelming desire “[i]n his [their] greedy lust for power” and “[f]or the sake of the filthy dollar” (10, 13). In the last stanza Oodgeroo mentions that it is nearly the time for “the Dreamtime folks” (20) to assemble and defend their land. “The Dreamtime”, also known as “The Dreaming”, is a sacred Australian Aborigin era in the animist framework in which ancestral Totemic Spirit Beings formed The Creation, a symbolic narrative of a culture, tradition or people that describes their earliest beginnings, how the world they know began and how they first came into it.
Therefore we can conclude that the “gentle black man” (22) is a metaphor that refer to the native Aborigins. Oodgeroo encourages them to show their strength and stand up for their land, preserve the nature and protect the planet. Overall “Time is Running Out” is a very emotional and thought-provoking poem. The varying lengths of lines in the poem’s form add to the substance of their meaning. The short electric lines contrast with the timeless long lines just like weather cycles. The last two lines are simple yet bring a thud on our heart. Oodgeroo doesn’t use many symbolic words, which make the poem relatively easy to understand, nevertheless her choices of words are extremely powerful and brilliant. It forces me to introspect and imagine, later when I have to make a living for me and my family, will I stand still for the earth? Or maybe I am the one on “the metal throne of destruction”?