Poem

Ellen van Neerven
are we one hundred years ago?

memorial for mass unmarked graves at Barambah-Cherbourg

 

take me to that place where sky and ocean meet — I’ve been missing that place and tonight I will have that dream again — of our Shark with its fins sliced off, bleeding out — my bro died today, he was healthy — my bro survived the war but he did not survive this — they took his body away like they taken all the mob — I don’t want him to wake up in a bag — I hope they spare a thought for his pride and his spirit when they bury him so he can return to his dreaming — I want to rest on his chest and breathe an answer — I want to wrap him up in possum skin and keep him safe — his uncle has a song but he’s refrained from singing.

 

a bunya pine crackles and falls in the forest — through the gaps of the tent I see them beat Nana — she is on her hands — they kick the gumleaf rub she made the children into the dirt — I hear her crying and crave to join and echo her cries — I cower — the trees fall one by one — they approach us wearing masks — spray us with a fetid liquid — put the children on soaking wet beds and pour cold water over to freeze the disease — they serve us milk — the porridge has run out — the manager’s rum-smelling breath — they may as well cut out our tongues — I want to dream of a butterfly frisking the light between the pine trees home.

Ellen van Neerven is a Mununjali Yugambeh writer and the author of Heat and Light and Comfort Food. Their new collection of poetry is Throat.