Tuesday, August 5, 2014

the white castle

a kangaroo jumps untidily
into a barbed wire fence

man: marinj

star posts strike against legs
the entangling
ends in a hanging

policeman/octopus: djuŋa

so our national idyll is pierced
by a half forgotten cleansing

to stab: djug

songs of the land and its memory
smothered in woollen sheets

snow: gunuma

droving in the new furniture
with a newer design

to steal: maŋgai

modular towns, imported,
still smelling of the London dock

rotten: ŋulu-ŋulug

the old people disbursed
like smoke among the eucalypts

ashes: brinj

gone hiding in the mountains
some trees still show their shattered text

scribbly gum: balug

but time removes these fragile marks
lucky to evade the settlers' advance

a younger sister: galan

later while we cringed in our cocoon
the final speakers were dying

to cry: gambawali

they had the keys to unlock our isolation
but an empire's child we are proudly in prison

an obstinate person: njarala-muga

in a white castle washed by the sea
we file our name: delinquency

to roll one’s eyes: djuŋgul

this neighbourhood did not rear these weeds
but there is time for some reconciliation

sorry: ŋaralda

the embrace would come easier
if blood did not disfigure our face

a wild man/killer: dulugal

let’s heal these wounds
and make our country whole again

a doctor/clever man: budira

ŋarigo and Ngunnawal words used in this poem, with thanks to the Indigenous people of the Canberra region, and the pioneering language work of Luise Hercus.