Published in Overland Issue The 2018 Oodgeroo Noonuccal Poetry Prize · Uncategorized Highly Commended: Mother(s) Native Tongue Yvette Henry Holt we are thieves of sunlight mother and i, soaking in the seasonal crusts of a south-east queensland winter. layering shawls upon time across the brim of our cinnamon dusted yiman* shoulders. hand in my hand dutifully mother shuffles around this garden playground, her distant nursing home. a place where deeply rooted terracotta pots forge amongst crayon coloured flowers giving rise to an inquiring ladybug mountaineering forbidden brown skin exploring just below the unthreading hem line of mother’s inherent sculptured legs. my ears hunt for a serpent butterfly echoing in distress. my eyes miscarry. edging toward her beloved garden bed the one nearest the aviary before a manicured mattress of flora and fauna we kneel in faith mother and i, but not in prayer. marigolds, snap-dragons, begonias, daffodils and blooming pansies lotion my lean desert fingers gently sailing up and down the oars of their urban throats i tickle in delight mother looks on half interested half not. mother begins to scribble with her tongue in a language i do not understand. listening with borrowed providence to the spillage of her words excitement bewilderment anger happiness frustration confusion laughter judgement confabulation. i am jealous. what a recipe of speech? you never offered me your language. never. not once. you only occasionally loaned me your aboriginal-english lingo a thorough concoction of bastardy words if ever there were along with conversations of the deceased premonitions of the future history of the Letters mother you impress me always in privacy always without witness. now your mind reclines into an abyss of natal sustenance piece by piece, your glossary so fertile. i want to speak my mother’s tongue! that same crossword dialect for which you were forbidden to voice post 1945 (Woorabinda Settlement). softly whispering to my first teacher, ’i know poetry | i know stars | i have also grown to know the sting of bees |.’ mother smiles muling away the curtains from her silken aboriginal-afghan eyes. leaning her ear toward mine mother sighs with grand certainty …i gave you all my stories! sunlight now shifts from one shoulder to the other casting shadows over these handwritten notes. for the lifers of this home morning tea is now served in the adjacent dining room, the one without a garden view. i pocket a chrysanthemum breaking its defenceless stem between my fingers burying seeds inside my jacket. still no serpent butterfly in sight. mother’s memory, a silent womb a sacred tomb a place that will forever unbolt me. mother continues to hold my hand. *Yiman / Iman / Yeeman / Jiman / Eoman (Nations / Tribe) Taroom, lower Dawson River region of south-west eastern Queensland. Image: Ricardo Lago / flickr Yvette Henry Holt Yvette Henry Holt – national multi-award winning poet, academic and comedienne – heralds from the Yiman, Wakaman and Bidjara Nations’ of Queensland. Her poetry has been widely published and anthologised, both in print and online. In 2005 Yvette was awarded the Queensland Premier’s David Unaipon Award for her manuscript, anonymous premonition (UQP), a collection of poetry and stories seeded amongst memories and dreams celebrating childhood, social justice, feminism, motherhood, womanhood and love. anonymous premonition went on to win the Victorian Premier’s Literary for Indigenous Writing in 2008, Scanlon Poetry Prize NSW 2008, Kate Challis RAKA Award 2010, and has since been translated into Chilean Mapuche, Chinese Mandarin and French. Yvette now lives and works in the Australian Central Deserts, promoting financial literacy and community education across 500,000,000 square kilometers. She is currently completing a manuscript of poetry and prose – uncovering what lies beneath the desert skin. More by Yvette Henry Holt › Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays First published in Overland Issue 228 27 September 2023 · Sport When the sport circus comes on Country Jenny Fraser The next huckster in the carnival of sport is the upcoming 2032 Brisbane Olympic Games. If we want aspects of it to be in line with Aboriginal protocol, we need action from across the four winds of the world. If it’s not done right we need solidarity and protest just the same. We are each other’s safety net in this theatre of sport. As a senior Aboriginal woman activist once told me, ‘we are all only as good as we negotiate’. 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