Junga Yimi (True Story)
"You sit 'ere, this way" said Jungarrayi, but I didn't hear,
I was watching instead the painted breasts of a woman,
ochred white and red, soft and curved and patterned like the land.
I watched the way her hands picked up her son -
little brother to the one they made a man that night.
I listened to the sound of the women as they sang
and knew I knew too little to understand their song -
sat all night long like a child in church
that I might do the wrong thing.
The hours dragged on. The women, wailing left.
At last they circumcised the boy,
now man, dark blood dripping on the sand.
I suppose I must have flinched -
old Jungarrayi laughed and held my hand.
I would not have known the way of it unless I'd seen the book,
months later, when I picked it up to look at his photo
and found it held a transcript of his life -
his Father massacred at Coniston in 1928 -
my Father's year of birth.
When I asked if it was all worthwhile -
looking after me, after that,
he stared abstractly at a point above my head,
his youngest daughter's child upon his lap.
He paused, said something to the child instead.
And just for a moment I thought he hadn't heard,
opened my mouth to speak,
then caught his eye and stopped -
and never spoke a word.