The Sydney Opera

1 August 2016

When poetry is the condition of ordinary speech, all speech is poetry, every breath is metaphor.

The stars no longer dock in the Sydney sky, they have dropped anchor at some unseeable harbour.

The stars are crossing the night unseen: the sea is slurring: it’s too drunk on history.

Here, on this earth, the white man has set light on fire; he has made it dance to his darkness, and called it Vivid.

The moon has been summoned to earth: it’s an installation that even wears a fucking halo, it’s worth only a selfie.

Says Lionel: It’s not that I don’t know how to behave among white people, they don’t know how to behave with me.

What was taken from water was given to earth: once from this land rainbows soared out of the heart of Biami.

But what the white man took can never be returned: in greed, he surrendered his own humanity.

Lionel surprises Anna Bligh—former premier of Queensland, Labor too—at the Sebel Pier One hotel:

Hey Anna, this is Lionel. Me, Lionel. Remember? I demonstrated against you. Now I’m sipping beer at the pier.

Yes, thank you. I seem to have arrived. You’ve not seen me in days? Oh I’ve not seen myself in days.

What’s a black man doing in this part of town? is a question decent white folk do not now ask in words so many.

They’re proper, law-abiding people. They take country and are nice about giving us a little earth under our own sun.

For those of us to whom all speech is poetry, there’s always a place: in the Aboriginal Tent Embassy. But then you see:

The sun is aboriginal. Moon is aboriginal. White is aboriginal too. There ain’t black without white, no day without night.

I want to put two hands on this yellowing evening sun: one yours, one mine. I want to trap light in time.

I want to take you on a walk to country: to see that the stars are not all dead: I want you to eat my mother’s heart: Come:


(For Lionel Fogarty and Ali Cobby Eckermann who threw some light on Sydney and me. 2.57 a.m., 24 May 2015. To be read with, or after, ‘Richard Green tells a story of the loss of Country’ where poetry is the condition of ordinary speech)





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