March 11

Dawn’s Recollection.

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‘Remember this place sacred to the tribe. No telling outsiders, especially that numbnut mate of yours.’ Uncle Alex looks me in the eye to whisper, ‘Whoever enters here never comes out the same.’ We walk a dry gully entrance hidden by rough scrub-trees into a shaded gorge about eight metres deep; the temperature drops 10 degrees.

Further along we ascend the right side bank where shaded water lingers its reflective surface spoilt by pirouettes of wind. The only sound the slap of our feet over washed rock. Sharp embankments suddenly give way to a circular opening where the bright sun illuminates the far end’s dry waterfall that leans lazily between two large fallen boulders that lay flat like lizards to lap at water’s edge.

All the way up from their water doused roots, melaleuca trees veil the south side wall. In silence we pass the opposing cliff’s inwardly gouged curved wall. My sight a wonder at the kaleidoscopic ancient ochre art. At the far end we are affronted by the black stain of fire.


Uncle Alex calls in a voice I do not understand, ‘Monti! It’s Alex. I have brought the boy.’
Someone answers but, from where, I cannot tell. With his finger uncle Alex summons me to sit on one of the six old car seats which loops loose around ashes, and we wait facing the shadowed water reflecting green of tree bathed in sun.


Abruptly smoke drifts forth from green leaves laid over ashen ambers. Goosebumps run my skin as a murmur of ancient tongue circles me. Pungent leaf smoke swirls around my head. Skinny weathered legs dance to a silent tune as an old man leaps, and skips between the two of us. Uncle Alex closed eyed raises his palms to silently mutter, ‘I wonder what the hell am I doing here?’


The old man’s dark eyes run the course of my skin. They dig deep to reveal my deepest secrets. I am exposed I can’t hide a thing. He sits across from me and babbles and cackles fingers pointing. What does he expect of me? I shake my head and accuse, ‘I’ve got nothing you want. Speak, English you old fool.’

His head tilts in laughter, his gestures accuse me of a crime I did not commit. He babbles at Alex as to blame him for fouling his house. Heat flushes my face, my fists tighten as I lean forward, ready to strike.

Alex’s face reveals nothing. He simply says, ‘He wants to know why you, my cousin, don’t know the language of your father? Why are you angry here in the heart of your clan’s land?’

Eyes wide, my chest shudders as shadows of people filter through the drooping leaves of the melaleuca that looms. The whispers of small birds, loud in my ears, talk of days when many wings beat. The country welcomed with food. The skinny little man opposite inflates like a rubber ball. My sweaty palms compress the seat upon which I sit. My open lips; fly kissed.

Then Uncle Alex says, ‘Monti asks if you want to be a blackfella?’ More babbles, and Uncle Alex continues. ‘Our tribe is lost. It no-longer lives with the country. They have forgotten. They only want television, or alcohol. But, you … You have a chance to learn, to be the way our tribe has lived since creation spirits shaped this land. You can walk with spirit in one hand, and the whitefella’s world in the other. You could teach our tribe of the dreaming still here in the country of our culture, the way we lived connected.’

Photo by Daniel Fox on Unsplash


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