New Moon

1 November 2015

for my bardibardi kujaka:
Gloria Friday, Marjorie Keighran & Clara Roberts

This is my recovery road, to follow the bardibardi
into the Gulf’s wild pharmacy; I let myself
surrender
to those hallelujah hands outstretched
to a sandalwood’s leafy collection
dis one dumbuyumbu an millad mob
boil jungkayi tea, tis pick you up
:

continuing to choose our leaves
between cabbage palms and billygoat plums, three kinds
of paperbarks and bikabaji green plums,
we arrive at a shrub, dog’s balls, and everyone
cracks it: tis one kurranga, dem hangin’ sweet lil-fruit:

as we walk these medicine trails of baked black earth
we watchfully step the tessellated tiles
of the sandy-poor bush floor
and the bardibardi sing their appeasement to spirits –
corralling us gently to a billabong’s shade:

we wash our leaves
before adding them to a billycan’s brown rolling boil
and as we drink together
the bardibardi tell me of the blind mermaid
of Robinson River:

a moonstricken old lady
journeyed to an exhaustion’s
drowning in a billabong’s calm lily pad
run on water:

her blind transformation from breathless
air to a reservoir’s faint trailing
song percolates through this lost city
of stratified sandstone spires and columns
as the curlew cries, grief-stricken,
against the acclaimed phases of the moon:

depression scarring
is cheeky history inhaled
as trauma’s din and breaching
the efficacy of our bardibardi’s jungkayi bush brew –
in a spent aftermath
we are left reading leaves for traces
of blind worry-bird’s shared resurrection
in the slender crescent of a new moon.


Bardibardi: is Indigenous language (Yanyuwa/Garrawa) in the Gulf region of northern
Australia for respectfully referring to older women.

Kujaka: is Indigenous language (Yanyuwa/Garrawa) in the Gulf region of northern
Australia for respectfully referring to your mother and her sisters.

Millad: is Kriol in the Gulf region of northern Australia for the first person plural
pronoun: we, us, our.

Jungkayi: is Indigenous language (Yanyuwa/Garrawa) in the Gulf region of northern
Australia for a person who stands in a guardian relationship to the ceremonies of
managing his/her mother’s Country. Today this term is often used to mean ‘boss’, ‘most
important’ or even ‘policeman’ and is also used widely by members of the Gudanji and Mara
peoples.

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