*Please note that the poetry formatting does not properly translate onto mobile devices - lines either do not fit on the screen or do not appear as they were intended to. Poems are best read on a desktop

Oysters 

 

                        Shaping shell through sentiment in sediment, 

something like an initiation into                     blood love

                                                            unbroken

 

                            //

 

                                    Across the oceanic Country that is

                                                            silver of salt of mother tongue

                                                to the place where you always are

                                    there is a                      relic                             beneath the water

                           which is also a                     relic                             in itself

 

                                                                                                            //

 

                                    I will give you an oyster

to press the softness against your heart,

            to sense the ebb of sharp edge against salted skin

                        and watch the purple rind change under moonlight

 

                                                                        //

 

                                    If a grain of sand has relived the myth

and become a pearl, iridescent                       

                                                  behind shy oyster walls not yet ajar,

                        then I will extract the myth from the stars

                                                                                    and give you               

                                                                                                            a pearl, 

over and over again,

                                                which is to say

                                                            I will give you my heart.

Other Words for Love

The sand moves around you now 

                                                         you who is crystalline

draped in seaweed and salt and sorry 

                                          a mollusc laid down by the tide

awash in the light of silver foam

                                                                 and seaside loam

all full moon mother of milky pearl

                                                          strung against the sky

and memory of shore 

                                                                 making soft edge

like amber glass rolled soft

                                                                in the river mouth

while the sand dunes

                               now making a home of the mangroves

are pandanus roots

                                     looped in on themselves like a belt 

holding this oceanic world up 

                                                        and further back again                                                     

a temple of banksia

                                                                   clay and smoke 

always smoke 

                                                    and other words for love.

All Ways Always

 

It begins with wattle blossom yellow

in the crimson womb of morning sky,

wrapped in a blanket of smoke 

winding off the mountain range, 

all uninterrupted honeysuckle banksia nectar

tapped onto an open, patient palm. 

 

The moon appears, unassuming, as if a gift 

among clouds hung full of first song clapsticked 

and sung across treetop canopy

through rock pool through ocean floor through 

pipi shells taking their first breath 

and red-bellied deadly slither 

while light washes across the earth like water 

making way for ceremony, making beauty

in dew and daylight and lack of, 

all golden glow of a land to be held 

with care, with custodianship

knowing all ways it always was

always will be all ways.

Gathered

 

We gather the kindling 

              our kin

 the tree-branch-leaf-litter

for flame famish, 

sit beneath 

the smoke the stars

                            –   unclothe the constellations 

                                       of their newer names   –

and listen for

the    s   p   a   c   e    between 

 

Many hands many 

                         hearts working 

         gather to carry this bowl 

of tree of river red gum

or something else 

                                small and soft and

                                     also sacred, 

all carved branch birthmarked

with two snakes

         watching their young hatch

         watching their world be reborn 

 

                            Follow the curve of vertebrae 

                   and scald and meeting place, 

                            hold it to the rhythm 

                                     of your chest 

                                               and let it mimic that of

                                     the land beneath your feet,

                            carry it with care with sovereignty

         to the stone to the river 

         gather the water 

                   that carries you

 

  Soak the leaves green

       don’t leave here 

                            without offering more than you take

                            without treading lightly       lovingly

 

So gather

not it not oil not earth,

it is not yours not ours,

work with not against and

work to make new smoke 

make song make sacred

 

Light the fire

bathe and birth    be birthed in the blue of both

         so we can gather listen watch feel

for the stories shared

                            for Dreamings dreamt

and wisdom woven, kept alight kept alive

 

Gather

                   we gather

                                      g a t h e r e d.

Poetry by Aboriginal poet and weaver Tais Rose Wae

Second Skin

 

When I talk about the

                                    heartbeat 

I am talking about that rise     and fall

                                                –          pregnant with wisdom            – 

 

the crest and cavern 

            that carries us, belonging 

                        to the backbone           

                                    that birthed us,

                                                the river red gum

                                                            sapped and scared 

                                                                        where bark was stripped

 

to cradle

                                    salt      /           seed     /           snake   /

                                    found fruit       and other food,

                                                            or water otherwise waded through

                                                                                                at high tide. 

 

It is the landscape library, 

                                         or what to them 

                                         is arid land,

                                                            the terra that their cheek and tongue trip over,

                                                            their nullius which is to us

our       sentient           second             skin,                            

                                                                        mapped

                                                                                      on fingertip 

                                                                                                          and carried by lip.

From a Place, Unknown

 

 

Acacia all black

from the bone cup

            and a daughter born

            with a blue quandong

            sucked to the stone

            between her lips,

 

the shadow 

of a camphor laurel leaf

                        red bellied and

                        heavy at the surface,

its branch eaten smooth

by a current of pearls

 

            and the velvet

            at the heart of a banksia

            broken under a foreign heel.

 

Lomandra’s new shoot

ripe for basket weaving

and a tongue

speaking language

 

and something else

for those of us 

who can’t remember how,

 

                        with words wilted

                        that don’t touch the ground,

                        too bitter in the mouth

                        for the familiar heartbeat

                        of bush:

 

 

                                    lo

                                         man

                                                  dra

 

 

                                    and other plants, uncommon, 

                        whose seed need burning

            and knowing hands 

 

and then the blood

resilient and resinous like sap

falling inward,

            beating for country

            I do not know

behind eyes open,

dreaming of dreaming

and undreamt too.

 

Under ashen silt

and the grey in between,                                         

a quartz casting light

through muddied waters

alive with freshwater grayling

 

            and if you listen closely,

            you can hear the gold

            in the riverbed.

Miro and Body Boab

 

A gumnut plucked                 from a fertile tree

carried across red earth

                        -     dustless in the stillness       -

to my womb, my arms, my breast.

 

 

You  who is within

                            /        sensing sunlight

from this same              shared        body. 

 

 

Through my skin                       sunned and swollen with you,

strong as your Noongar namesake, 

the size of an avocado           –      or then again, 

                                                                              a boab       –

listening to the kookaburras

and of course, already knowing

                                                      their language.

 

 

I will cradle you           in the rapids 

                                                            –      forehead ochred    – 

in the water of the earth

                                     that conceived you.

 

 

I will guide you through the smoke

                                               of new green leaves

as the desert-quandong crimson of your blood 

pools from your placenta                

                                     which we bury 

so Country knows you

have arrived.

 

 

And when you do         arrive

I will show you the 

                            

                                     earth

                                               sun

                                                        ocean

                                                                 stars           

                   

and by that,                   I mean

                            I will show you

that you are home.