For Patrick White (1976)
When the Badtjala people discovered Eliza Fraser,
her story of cannibals devoured a history.
A century later when the Badtjala people
rescued Ellen Roxborough on the fringes of paradise
White's imagination captured the Aborigine –
the Blacks – for the nation.
When she ate Badtjala woman's flesh,
after it has died,
we will hold a vigil for the moon.
We will burn candles,
cheap mimics of its light,
& utter prayers we forgot to utter
while it still lived.
And we will say,
'Remember how it
spoke to us its bone-coloured dreams?
Remember how it gave us hope
when all else seemed savage?'
And some will say it was ...
Life, like climbing, is best
accomplished if you don't look
down. Pressed up against the rock,
rock-face to face, one is safest.
Hands like to be busy, little nest-
builders, hunting for hand-
holds in the crevices and creases,
they work best in the dark,
by feel; creatures of tactility.
Feet too, like to work unhindered
by the he ...