States of Poetry 2017 - ACT | 'The colour of eyes' by Merlinda Bobis

The colour of eyes

For Banduk Marika, Aboriginal artist

1. After your story of the funeral, August 1991

Black, Banduk, is the colour of eyes
like night shrunk
when grandma tidies after grief.
Perhaps she could not spill
to stain the room.

Black, Banduk,
this quaver fisted
in her throat –
it has no moon,
it aches with too much swallowing.
There is no voice
to bruise the air.

You think
she wills it neat?

Tonight she smooths the black
from trembling.
She promises,
‘This dark will keep.’

She is too frugal
when she can not weep.


2. On seeing your prints defying margins

Black that could not spill
to stain the room.

How tiny, how contained
like frugal woodblock prints
assigning loss a space.

But whose eyes
assign loss and
space – or colour?

Mine, the gallery’s,
the press’, the Parliament’s?
No. You leap

your art, your Country
beyond the frame
beyond the page.

Merlinda Bobis