Highly Commended: Waiali Possum Cloak

(Darug and English)


By waragal nightfall, Koori ngurra, Black’s camp. Firelight – tree flickering. Sounds of singing, gumleaf playing, trilling.

Arriving in her true country, calling her, singing her.

Carrying her mother with broken heart, broken limb, eyes drinking in …

Yurungai, black duck place. Clean fresh water, bardo, to drink, swim

with fish, mogra, eels, burra, green water dragons, bidjiwong, lily flowers drifting. Sweet bardo.

Koori people diving, digging, lily roots to roast. Roasting in coal hot fire.

A bird ghost place, green grey bush of

these mornings, a golden river, birds diving over shimmering bardo. Bardo.

She eats gum tree manna, sticky sweet, dusty on leaves, licking fingers.

Walking across empty ground – dragging fire wood. Chief Nurragingy watching, he gives her a soft brown possum cloak. Soft waiali cloak. Soft. Running fingers in fluff.

Piling white river driftwood along red river gums

she lights a fire – white man’s tinder box, flint making sparks, a waiballa fire stick

tickling smoke and flames, misting river. The misty river. Misty.

Voices echo hills and lagoon. Refugee dullai, wirawi from distant tribes. Darkinjung, Gundungurra, Darug, Woromi, Biripi, Wiradjuri, Gamelroy…

Dream a cruel journey through brown snake curling leaves. Blood and pus, heads beaten in. Corn cobs stuffed in mouths and flies buzzed. Gibbets of strange fruit. Stench of rotting flesh.

Seeing herself, running. Running. Chased by a great grey horse, sweat smelling.

Tail flicking her face as rider swerves and jumps from yarraman horse, picking a flogging branch. Flog her broken heart, broken land. Huff and puff.

Swung like a scythe. She ran whu karndi quick as wirriga goanna, dived behind rocks, melted into iron stone. Goonge in stone.

Now, she glimpses herself in a white man’s mirror. Shimmering. A black curly haired girl. White gleaming teeth. Gleaming. Manna sweet face. Eyelashes thick, thick as feather down.

Worowi muttong whu karndi

Muru wallawa nangaree.

Singing, gumleaf playing, trilling



Image: This line will melt away very soon / flickr

Julie Jedda Janson

Julie Jedda Janson is a Burruberongal woman of Darug nation. She is a teacher, artist, playwright, poet and novelist. In 2016, she was the recipient of the Oodgeroo Noonuccal Poetry Prize. Her published works include The Crocodile Hotel (Cyclops Press, 2015) and The Light Horse Ghost (Nibago – Booktopia, 2018).

More by Julie Jedda Janson ›

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