BENEATH OUR MIRRABOOKA SKY
© Brenda Joy 2012
Winner of the ‘Australian Written Poetry Champion’ and ‘The Silver Brumby’ awards in the 2012 ABPA National Championships held in conjunction with The Man From Snowy River Bush Festival, Corryong Victoria, 29th March — 1st April, 2012.
In the moisture-laden atmosphere
of a pre-monsoonal noon
where the almost-water air clung like a cloak,
in the shade of verdant over-growth
where a city's waste was strewn,
sat a bone-bare, Aboriginal, old bloke.
His demeanour spoke of poverty
and his posture spoke of shame,
while his tattered, dirty clothes bespoke neglect.
With his hand outstretched for dole and drink,
like a victim laying blame,
he appeared bereft of pride or self-respect.
What had dragged this elder down towards
such a pitiful demise
where he wasted daylight hours in a daze
on the fringe of town society?
I could only but surmise
what had caused abandonment of tribal ways.
Were his half-caste brethren harshly forced
from their kin, their home, their time,
to a twilight zone, identity displaced?
Have his children sunk through drugged defeat
into violence and crime;
has the honourable Dreamtime been disgraced?
Then it seemed that he entrapped my gaze.
From a prehistoric dawn
I could hear my name resound in ancient cries —
overwhelming sense of wonderment.
In an instant I was drawn
to the Dream within those coal-black, deep-set eyes.
And the ancient rites of passage stirred
a vibration in my soul
as the throb of didge and clapping stick resumed,
to attune me to the rhythmic pulse
of a people proud and whole
and the chant from past corroboree consumed.
Then the magic names of ancestors
from the first creative race,
like a mantra only hearts could understand,
in a sacred ritual of sound
linked the people to their place,
through their reverential worship of the land.
And he danced just like his totem bird,
with his arms, like wings, spread wide,
in Arella ring with nullah, sling and spear.*
Dirawong and Bunjil, Baiame,*
were the spirit names he cried
with a resonance that only hearts could hear.
Then the vision left my inner sight
and the fleeting glimpse was o'er —
I was back in busy city din and grime
and the bone-bare Aborigine
was left destitute once more,
like a misplaced remnant from another time.
But I'd known the bond of unity
and I looked with wiser gaze
and the pity I’d been feeling turned to pride
that custodians of ancient race
have survived to modern days
with ancestral spirit kept alive inside.
We cannot erase the damage done
but the promise lies ahead
and the message from long past has timely worth,
for the tribal lore that they revere
in their Dreaming is not dead
if we share their love and caring for our earth.
Though the symbols used are not the same
we all have a Dreamtime song
of a pristine land to lift our spirits high.
We can live in tune with Mother Earth
for together we belong
'neath an unpolluted Mirrabooka sky.*
* Glossary of Aboriginal terms
Arella —ceremonial ring
nullah —club like weapon
Dirawong, Bunjil, Baiame — names of Spirit Ancestors from Dreamtime legends
Mirrabooka — in many Aboriginal languages, means ‘Southern Cross’.