return to index
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 terrified 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, leaned forward, opened my mouth to speak, then caught his eye and stopped - and never spoke a word.