Poem

Evelyn Araluen
Unreckoning

Sis, I have a ghost story:

A river flows fat of bream and cod and perch. Here where the soil has parted for the belly of creators, the stones in the shape of the foot of god, the river ripples songs for their journeys through the land. Black bodies splash shards of golden light, there is enough and enough and enough. I promise where we stand now, sis, on the dusty banks of the basin where a dry-dead rivergum slouches brittle into the spelching mud, is only memory for the water that gathers and makes green the living.

Under and over the silence and clunky chains of the colonising tongue, there is speaking in the rustle of leaf and call of bird. These are the words the land knows, for it made them in the cradles of country, in the salt and sand of sound. Songs carry through track and tract, lines are traced so the living know where to dance. I swear nothing of the immemorial slumbers, sis. This is the voice I use to call you, and the one you use to answer.

I know there are other everywhens and not far from ours, sis, the sun burns behind the mountain to light campfires in the sky. A child returns from the day to waiting arms. There is water and language and loving in all the rites of home. She knows her name, and her mother’s name, and her grandmother’s name, and the names of ancestor and relation and creation, and the names of those who will come. She knows the earth that knows her. She is home and she will never be made to leave.

Sis, I’m haunted in and out of dreaming. I don’t know if we’re the nightmares.

Evelyn Araluen
is a prizewinning Goorie/Koorie poet and researcher at the University of Sydney.

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