© Peter O’Shaughnessy

Winner, 2021 ABPA Queensland State Championship and the Serious Section of the Golden Wattle Written Competition, North Pine, Queensland.

There’s a strange sombre sound in the mulga tonight
    a dark drone as a hundred feet stomp.
There are grim shuffling shapes in the dim fire-light
    and the Martu men moan as they stomp –
      the desert tribe’s drone and they stomp.

And the terrified women and children must hide
    from the deeds in the night they might see,
for a man will be ‘sung’ and the law will decide
    on the fate the offender may see –
      a judgement no children may see.

So the dancers have gathered from tribes in the hills
    – Budidjarra and those from out back –
Mandildjarra and Kuwarra bring their dark drills,
    but there’s one man who’s not going back –
      the guilty man’s not going back.

For there’s murder been done and the elders have sung.
    They’ve decided that he has to pay.
So the dance has begun and the sacred boards hung,
    for that’s part of the price he must pay –
      the price that the guilty must pay.

So tonight he will sit in his terror and pain
    with the wisdom of elders around.
He must sit all alone and he has to remain
    with that dark, awful drone all around –
      that frightening drone all around.

Now the drone’s growing louder. The thumping feet crush
    and the thunderous thump feeds his fear,
as the dancers grow frenziedly frantic then … hush!
    Sombre silence soon fills him with fear –
      a silence that fills him with fear.

With a feathery hiss – like a sand serpent’s kiss –
    a dark grim ghostly creature appears
from the dim ghastly pit of a dreamtime abyss, 
    their most feared awful demon appears –
      the feather-foot demon appears.

Then with barely a sound they bring out the feared bone
    and they wait for the soft feathered tread
of the Featherfoot Man as he dances alone,
    he’s Kadaitcha with feathered foot tread –
      all fear his faint, feathered foot tread.

Now the song has been sung and the bone pointing done –
    sacred objects returned to their place,
for the dying’s begun and there’s nowhere to run
    and the Featherfoot fades from this place –
      Kadaitcha Man’s gone from this place.

But the murderer knows that his death will soon come.
    He’s resigned to the fact he will die.
For the law men have sung and he knows he’ll succumb
    now the Featherfoot’s willed him to die –
      Kadaitcha Man’s ‘sung’ him to die.

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