Notes - Claire G Coleman
Type
Poetry Prize

Highly Commended: I am the road

My grandfather was the bush, the coast, salmon gums, hakeas, blue-grey banskias

Wind-whipped water, tea-black estuaries, sun on grey stone

My grandfather was born on Country, was buried on Country

His bones are Country

I am the road.

 

I was born off Country, in that city

I hear, less than two-weeks old I travelled Country

A bassinet on the back seat of the Kingswood

I remember travels more than I remember a home

I am the road.

 

My father is the beach, the peppermint tree, the city back when, before it was a city

My father is the ancient tall-tree country, between his father Country and that town

My father is World War II, his father was a soldier

My father wandered, worked on rail, drove trucks

I am the road

 

Campgrounds up and down that coast were the childhood home of my heart

Where my memories fled, where my happiness lived

Campgrounds in somebody else’s stolen country

I am the road

 

The road unrolls before me

My rusty old troopy wipes oily sweat from its underside on the asphalt

Says ‘I am here, I am here’

The engine breathes in, breathes out, pants faster than I can

Sings a wailing thundering song

Wraps its steel self around me and keeps me safe, a too large overcoat

I am the road

 

I slept, for a time, on the streets of Melbourne

No country, no home, as faceless as the pavement

I was dirt on the streets, as grey as the stone, as the concrete

I am the road

 

We showed explorers where the water was

They lay their road over our path, from water to water

Lay a highway over their road, tamed my country with their highway

I am the road

 

My Boodja has been stolen, raped, they dug it up, took some of it away

They killed our boorn, killed our yonga, our waitch, damar, kwoka

Put in wheat and sheep, no country for sheep my Boodja

My Country, most it is empty, the whitefellas have no use for it

Except to keep it from us

Because we want it back, need it back, because they can

I am the road.

 

People ask where I am from, I cannot, simply answer

To mob, I am Noongar, South Coast. I am Banksias, wind on waves on stone

To travellers, whitefella nomads, I am from where I live – that caravan over there

To whitefellas from Melbourne who see how I drink my coffee

I must be from Melbourne, I am not Melbourne

I am the road

 

One day wish to, hope to, dream, buy some of my grandfather’s country back

Pay the thieves for stolen goods

Theft is a crime, receiving stolen goods is a crime

Until one day

I am the road.

 

 

Image: Md Al Amin / flickr

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Claire G Coleman is a Wirlomin Noongar woman whose ancestral country is in the South Coast of Western Australia. Her debut novel Terra Nullius, written while travelling in a caravan, won a Black&Write! Fellowship and has been shortlisted for the Stella Prize and an Aurealis Award.

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