Build-up

4 May 2016

The bardibardi call time
on mununga slogans of ‘stop the boats’;
shaping-up and giggling
their Makassan memories
of brown bodies coming ashore in a spray of surging sea:

for centuries these boat people cultivated
tamarind trees in a highlight
of northern fruits spoilt
in another latecomer’s scorched earth:

so with the bardibardi we integrated
secondary programs: mapping
Makassan heritage sites and Australian detention centres,
writing petitions and emails, researching
and tabulating the figures
on massacres and stolen land, resistance,
Eddie Mabo and Land Rights now:

we camped at Jawuma and Lhuka
where once the conch shell heralded
Yanyuwa welcome to traders hauling
a well learned reverential eye:

we hunted trepang, shark fin,
sandalwood, the shells of turtle and pearl;
mounting a classroom exhibition –
our pot of rainbow trade:

and at Waralungku Arts the bardibardi collected
an exhibition on all the Gulf’s ‘boat peoples’,
all those sweet fruits and liar fruits
carried by people from far away:

so at year end we bundled
into troopies, and through
an avenue of tamarinds, headed
for Massacre Hill:

here an idyllic creek flat
nestled an ancient fishing weir at the foot
of a spur’s sweeping runway, up
to thrumming silence,
that bluff of pelted fruit:

here the vertical stratifications
of bedrock cut through
cheeky and rough.

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