Published in Overland Issue 218 Autumn 2015 · Uncategorized Exile: second place, Judith Wright Poetry Prize Chris Armstrong In the beginning I carried fireflies for fuel, used a walking stick borrowed from the first blue gum and stuffed my pockets with scribbly bark; it seemed important to write the journey ahead, as proof it was no dream. And I left – unnamed, when all the land lay sleeping and in the rain as it drew leeches across the forest floor in a dance of thirsty life that drew my blood in a line from south to mouth. It took a thousand inhalations to strike the point where the bandicoot and blue tongue tended the watershed between this world and the next as I sang a path between their small wonders and the rhythm of digging up laws laid down like a story in the land. Then I drew the stale water of my soul northwards. As I went, it became thicker and bluer, full fresh and clear and I slithered it off one page, picked up again on the next. Maybe this is where I went wrong; became separated from truth by binding thin sheaths of paperbark, while my journey saw me flanked by corkwoods straight as an invaders gun barrel. But I had begun and I must shoulder these weapons and feel the maidens hair beneath my feet, beneath emerging Turpentine, Brush Box, Rosewood vibrating with the singing of ten thousand cicadas. There was nothing for it but to push through noise and humidity, scratched from claws of sound and thrice I jumped from mountain to mountain over the fat body of a red-bellied black snake, neck flared, mouth open, as it spoke the first language. And at that moment, all the animals uttered their thoughts, but I heard none and knew I was not part of this anymore. And so on the third day, as the sun grew hotter than the moon, I rested in a deep pool of narrative where the last giants bathed their feet; and raised wet, shaggy heads above the forest, rough beards of epiphyte and limbs daubed with lichen, their lined and weathered skin running with rain. I would have to steal between their feet singing my song of exile and counting the reasons man had been cast out of nature: for the writing of journeys, for the conceit of words that possums no longer speak, for greed and gunbarrels and on the last morning in that place, the scrubwren landed by me, yet did not offer a farewell. If we have stepped outside nature, who will sing us back in again? Chris Armstrong Chris Armstrong is a writer of poetry, fiction and nonfiction with a degree in journalism and a masters in Creative Writing from the University of Wollongong. Chris currently lives on the road and in the weather gathering silage for future poems. More by Chris Armstrong 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 1 First published in Overland Issue 228 26 May 202326 May 2023 · Fiction Fiction | garramilla/Darwin Lulu Houdini We sit in East Point Reserve and look at how the gidjaas, green ants, make globe-like homes out of the leaves — connected edges with fibrous tissue that I later learn is faithful silk. Safe inside. Why isn’t it safe outside? I pick up the plastic around this circular lake cause this is the way […] First published in Overland Issue 228 25 May 202326 May 2023 · Main Posts The ‘Chinese question’ and colonial capitalism in New Gold Mountain Christy Tan SBS’s New Gold Mountain sets out to recover the history of the Gold Rush from the marginalised perspective of Chinese settlers but instead reinforces the erasure of Indigenous sovereignty. Although celebrated for its multilingual script and diverse representation, the mini-TV series ignores how the settlement of Chinese migrants and their recruitment into colonial capitalism consolidates the ongoing displacement of First Nations peoples.