By | 31 October 2021

to the hum of a subaru 4×4
they invent an escape

the uncles have it all planned
criss-crossing old lines
where that big serpent story
slithers west

a comic opera of black men
a wallaby and a brolga
and a boy emu dulled
with a too-long-in-the-colony look
follow highway lined scar
trees deep into sky country

from the back seat
boy takes in the mono-crop patchwork
picture-view flickering fields
weeping paterson’s curse
black dirt to red dirt
little dust devils curl their grins
in the tailwind

unc’ brolga notes how mulga
gently lifts from the horizon
a trick of that warm seasonal air
and begins a belly-song
navigating toward his mother’s totem
sparrow-hawks circling
in silent accompaniment
boy emu commits the rocky contours
of melody to memory

they find a place to camp
cut wood for the inner circle
for carving boy’s first war-boondi

in his crypto-tongue
unc’ wallaby
tells a tenuous fable

of those petrified great heroes
and villains painted ignobly
into landscape
as archetype
of reconciled australia
as blue
in a sea-foam girt
as reconciled
for show
for what
all to crack open
the few biomes left looking
for a composer-in-residence

a whittled boy
young and free
strung with another’s culture
begins to see the ground
beneath him
covered with axe heads
sees the scabs of a wattle riot
overflowing ruins
hears the hidden accents
inscribed in homelands he always knew

evening edges them fireside
quiet boy emu
uncle wallaby and brolga
lick into shape
clubs made from gidj’
sounds of metal on wood
fill the nocturnal ethers

uncles leave
their dreamcraft unfinished
for the boy
tell him the rest of the story-pattern
can be found in the stars
and tomorrow…

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