Bird Song

Damen O’Brien

 

Choral Adithinngithigh Adnyamathanha Aghu Tharrnggala Alawa Alngith Alyawarre

forest at Amarag Ami Andajin Andegerebinha Anguthimri Anindilyakwa Anmatyerre

dusk and Arrernte Atampaya Awabakal Ayabadhu Ayapathu Badimaya Bandjigali Banjima

gusts of rainbow Bardi Barngarla Barrow Point Bayungu Bidyara Bundjalung Bunuba

lorikeets, tides and Bunurong Djabwurung Djangun Djawi Djinang Djiringanj Djiwarli

settlements of lorikeets Doolboong Dungidjau Dyaabugay Djabirr-Djabirr Dyangadi

fill the aural branches with Dyirbal Eora Erre Flinders Island Gaagudju Gajerrong

wars, avalanches of orchestras Gambera Gamilaraay Guguyimidjir Gumbaynggirr

and song, clashing into sound. The Gundungurra Gungabula Gunin Gunya Gurindji

Jingulu Jurruru Kabi Kabi Kala Kayardild Kija Kokata Kok-Nar Kukatja Kuku Thaypan

corpus and philology of his loved, lived Kuku Yalanji Kuku-Mangk Kuku-Mu’inh

language was a flock once of words different Muminh Kuku-Ugbanh Kuku-Uwanh

to any other, but when he is gone, this dictionary Kuluwarrang Kunbarlang Kunggara

will close, so they send him children to teach. He is Kunggari Kunja Kunjen Malgana

Malyangaba Manda Mandandanyi Mangarla Mangarrayi Mangerr Mara Maranunggu

a keeper of a whole world’s swallowed syntax, heavy heavy Marti Ke Martuwangka

expectation for a Shakespeare to own a whole vocabulary, but Martuyhunira Maung

for this one man, almost too much and the strange birds peck at Mayaguduna

the roof of his mouth searching for all his forgotten irreplaceable words. Okunjan

Paakantyi Pakanha Paredarerme Peerapper Peramangk Pitta Pitta Pinigura Pintupi Pini

There are other birds coming down to the branches: Eastern Rosellas, King Thaua

Parrots roosting, not threatened but not so plentiful as this brash, eager army,

calling out. How could anyone know if one of these birds stopped singing?

Wadjigu Wagaya Wagiman Wajarri Wakawaka Walangama Walbanga Walmajarri Wambaya

Wamin What difference would it make to the song? Warlpiri Warluwara Warnman

Warrgamay Warrungu Warrwa Warumungu Wandandian Wangaaybuwan Wangai

Wunambal Wurla Yandruwandha Yankunytjatjara Yan-nhangu Yanyuwa Yawarawarga

Yawijibaya Yinggarda Yir Yoront Yir-Thangedl Yorta Yorta Yukulta Yulparija Yuwaaliyaa

 

Damen O’Brien is a Queensland poet.  Damen was joint winner of the Peter Porter Poetry Prize and has won the Yeats Poetry Prize, the KSP Poetry Award and been shortlisted in the ACU Poetry Prize, Val Vallis Award, and Newcastle Poetry Prize.  Damen has been published in Cordite, Island, Verity La and StylusLit.

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