Published in Overland Issue 234 Autumn 2019 Uncategorized Judith Wright Poetry Prize, first place: Acacia Land Julie Jedda Janson Can you see this picture – in Ngiyampaa and Gamilaraay country? in the outback, a Toyota police car cruised on a misty, quiet as death, night, near the outback town of Wilga, a tidy town gunjie white wagon, bull bar dripping red dust, driving over dirt roads, the holding of desperate crying men and women with blood-spattered cushions, stuffing hanging out passing silently through a desert cattle station, biggest in the whole world, rabbit goat ravaged, a monument to what Whitefella gubbahs could steal, keep and clear fell trees and wreck with abandonment in God’s Own Country Acacia shrub lands, saltbush, blue bush, copper burrs, bluebells, grevilleas and spindly wattles, rusty sheds abandoned, farmland littered stones, sun set blazing pink, ‘Assumption of the Virgin’ sky the dark tree line on a high river bank, the Darling River, a brown dead dribble, a dribble they see a running dinewan, emu and crashing lightning, it’ll set your hair on fire, but no water ngaru-gi, fit for drinking sky now jet black with diving stars, the Milky Way wiggled a black ribbon over head in the Dreaming Serpent’s path pearl tongue flickered around Orion’s belt, the moon rose, gunjie drove on beneath its luminous glow the vehicle lurched over rocks, getting dark yellow head light glow, glimpsed old tyres piled against falling down fences of barbed wire while thorn bushes crowd the wooden posts, strung with the crucified corpse of a wedge-tailed eagle, its great yellow beak bent to kiss the earth they rattled past abandoned lives with rusty signs: ‘BP Service Station’ in red peeling paint, gazed at forlorn building, wondered whose life had been spent out in the middle of the semi desert of broken trees, followed by a bandaar roo, little spirit fellas, gabinya wandabaa, all brown and hairy yelling: ‘give us back our dead’ he saw a shadow move inside ruins, a windowed screaming woman’s face he shifted in his hot sticky car seat, chewed his nails, feeling deep unease, a rising, foreboding, sickness, in waves chest tight, a vice and maybe he would have a heart attack any day now and that would teach them. shut that steel trap of teeth and wait until the noise died down, they would stop asking questions after a while drive slowly and lean forward to see grey mist lifting from a hot road stones strewn across landscape like giant toys and red gum trees hovered sensations of total inexplicable anguish grew grew, until around a bend: a ghost, a goonge, in white ochre and blood, in the headlights, a few seconds his semi-naked dark body trembling, his head gashed and flowed with gore eyes shone like powerful light beams the semi-transparent image shivered, pleaded with hands outstretched his mouth crying: help, hold me in your arms, a warm embrace, ghost fingers trembled, a drop of blood fell to earth, his eyes wept to watch it stain the sand police officers gaped with wide eyed gunjie terror car brakes slammed, screeched, he gripped the wheel, yelped and swerved crunched into thorn bushes, rattling gravel eyes staring, face transformed, a white mask he tried to restart, the starter whined, whined and he turned the key, again and again, it crunched, twisted and quietly died near Wilga, a tidy town Image: Josh Bartok / Flickr Read the rest of Overland 234 If you enjoyed the results of this prize, buy the issue Or subscribe and receive four brilliant issues for a year 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 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 29 March 2023 Aboriginal Australia Standing in the dawn’s new light: truth-telling for settlers Anthony Kelly There’s a paradox about being a settler in a stolen country. No matter when we arrived, we inherited the bounty of genocidal violence. 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