Footsteps of giant creatures crisscross ancient mud
A thousand paws-prints caught in pitted sandstone
run along the shore, fill as rock-pools at high tide

The Goolarabaloo sing the trail of a Marrala Man
A great emu races by shedding feathers from his tail
leaves fern-like patterns pressed into rock

Their lives are linked to greater cycles, moving stars
Seven Sisters Dreaming spans the sky to Uluru
moves further east as far as ‘sunrise country’



Today the white men have come to take the inside
out of our country. Search in places far deeper
than the Snake man shaping the land long ago

Miners are moving in, machines look for vents
fault-lines inside the earth. They pierce the skin
down to the core, find buried fuel under the sea

They search our hidden places, wake mysteries
in steaming channels. The Serpent’s breath
burns with a liquid fire richer than oil



Woodside have found natural gas under the ocean
Offer leases, promise wealth to the shrinking tribes
to young men drifting to towns down south

The people make a stand on different grounds
one group against the other. Some welcome change
new ideas, share the white man’s dreaming

Others know the land is not theirs to give. Hold to
the natural law. Traditional men fear the talk
of pipelines, jetties, a gas hub along the Bay



For centuries they walk the Lurrujarri Dreaming
sing the song-lines along the coastal plain. Follow
the seasons on ‘the land where the sun goes down’

Back from the dunes shell middens lie bleached
and massed. Spear heads, grinding tools left
where they fall, testify to years of Ceremony

They watch for whales calving off the cliffs
trap dugong in channels on the turquoise reef
feasting on turtle eggs laid in warm sand



Their footsteps tread lightly on Country. Swept
by wind and tide they leave no signs of possession
Their imprint easily lost to the weight of change

A swinging ball is no match for memories stored
in sand, sacred stories stretching to Walmadany
Their hero spirit guards the Point looks down

His ochre cliffs hold fire from a falling sun. Belief
lies deeper than the promise of riches. Invisible gas
captured off-shore, flowing under a darkening sea


Walmadany: James Price Point Western Australia
The Bay: Browse Basin
Goolarabaloo: a tribe holding Native Title


Brenda Saunders

Brenda Saunders is a poet and visual artist of Aboriginal and British descent. She has published three collections of poetry and her work has appeared in major anthologies and journals, including Australian Poetry JournalOverlandSoutherly, and Best Australian Poems in 2013 and 2015 (Black Inc). She has received numerous prizes including the Mick Dark Varuna Environmental Writers’ Fellowship, the Banjo Patterson Poetry Prize, and was a finalist in the prestigious Aesthetica Prize (UK) and the International Vice-Chancellors Poetry Prize (University of Canberra). She is a member of DiVerse Poets who write and perform their ekphrastic poetry in Sydney art galleries.

More by Brenda Saunders ›

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