Above his desk it is written: ‘I wish I knew the names of all the birds.’ I know this room through tessellation of leaf and branch, wurahŋ-bil and jaran-gir, in the shade of a kulsetsi — (Cherokee) ‘honey locust’ [a flowering tree]. I am relearning these hills and saltwaters and all the places wrapped around this room We both have dagahral here, lovers/fathers/friends/conquerors/ ghosts. But here, in this new and ancient place, I ask him to name the song that swoops through this mosaic: Sometimes it is wattlebird sometimes it is currawong — when we drive, he tells me king parrot, fairy wren, black cockatoo and I know jalwahn and bilin bilin and ngarehr but the rest are just nunganybil, the rest are just: ‘bird’ It is hard to unlearn a language: to unspeak the empire, to teach my voice to rise and fall like landscape, a topographic intonation. So in this place the shape of my place I am trying to sing like hill and saltwater, to use old words from an old country that I have never walked on: bundjalung jagum ngai, nganduwal nyuyaya, and god, I don’t even know if I’m saying it right. But I watch the bark twist: grey and slate and vanilla and vermillion he tells me this is ribbon gum — so I find five words for this bark and I promise I will learn them all Because to hold him is to hold the tree that holds these birds I cannot name, and a word spoken here might almost sound like home. We are relearning this place through poetry: I open my book and say, wayan, here is a word which means road, but also root and in it I am rooted, earthed, singing between two lands I learn that balun is both river and milky way, and that he is baray-gir, the youngest child and the top of the tree, where the gahr will come to rest — to call its own name across the canopy, long after his word for it is gone.