Mnemonic 2020

1.             Black
Uncle takes us walking on Yuin Country.
He shows us overgrown bush grape vine wrestling
with sarsaparilla and gums.
He tells us blackfullas would have burnt this back long ago,
if they were allowed.
He makes us tea in a billy, gets told by a ranger to put it out.
Fire ban. A month later Uncle loses everything,
returns home to find a half-burnt roo stumbling around.

2.             Indigo
My sister and I drive from Cadigal to Naarm.
Smoke shepherds us down passed the bulrushes of Wodonga.
We breathe blue sky for the first time in months.

3.             Brown
Out where Wiradjuri and Wailwan meet,
marsh dries to desert. 3,000 hectares of reed beds burn.
It doesn’t make the 6 pm news.

4.             Orange
A friend and I swing in hammocks up in Gringai bush.
All the grass is dead. They are feeding the pademelons
sweet potato.

5.             Silver
My cousin and I go camping at New Years’.
We meet where saltwater and freshwater wed
on Worimi Country. We bunker down in tents as sirens pass,
lightning wreaks havoc on drought-washed hills.
We prepare to evacuate.

6.             Yellow
I travel with my sister to visit Mob
on Biripi and Dungutti Country.
We eat chip sandwiches like we did as kids
with Dad in the shadows of Wollumbin.
We watch Nan eat lemons
from the tree we sit under,
while smoke from grass fires linger.

7.             Grey
Winter and rains will come.

8.             Purple
After the Jacaranda blooms we go into lockdown.
We are locked in together on Gadigal land.
I work from my bedroom and feel more trapped than ever.
A manager tells me she heard an Aboriginal woman
on Sky News say blak breathlessness isn’t a problem.
Not in Australia.
I am livid. I can’t argue. I need to pay bills.

9.             Violet
Rio Tinto rapes Juukan Gorge.
Rio Tinto makes final dividend payment totalling $3.6 billion.
Rio Tinto’s share price returns to six-month high.

10.             Gold
Someone complains about doing all of Brighton,
the vulnerable are Rapunzeled in towers.
Essential workers are scared of hunger,
too scared to tell managers,
they live with a positive case.

11.             Red
USyd calls cops on a student protest of less than 20.
USyd’s Vice-Chancellor increases number
of students in tutorials to 30.
100s of students return to protest at USyd.

12.             White
I travel with my cousin to Seal Rocks,
we camp by melting white Worimi shores.
All the seals are lost.
We try to have a discussion about protecting
cultural knowledge. We are interrupted by a neoliberal,
tells us there is no point, someone will steal it for profit.
He leaves before we can reply.
He shows off his drone to private school friends.
He doesn’t realise he stands in a midden.

13.             Green
I walk with my mother through curated rainforest
on Gumbaynggirr land.
It feels like the first weekend
in history. It is the first we are allowed to travel.
I walk with my father on Gumbaynggir coast.
The winter sun, cool sand and breeze are medicine.
Country mothers me and I feel replenished.
Towards the end of winter
the drought is breaking
on the 6 pm news.


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Yeena Kirkbright

Yeena Kirkbright is a Wiradjuri woman living on Gadigal Land, who grew up on Country in Central West NSW. She uses poetry to document her personal journey, exploring gender, identity, place, cultural displacement, and decolonisation.

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