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From: Vol.06 N.02 – Intersecting Energies

Local amnesia

by Emilie Collyer

There was a tree you climbed,

height-thrill and warm bark against


your skin. You don’t know what kind of tree

it was. Today, waiting for your mother in the city,


she’s running late and it’s pouring rain,

(did she slip, is she okay?) a sudden violent


outburst—it never used to rain like this in Melbourne

did it? A heavy, humid gush that sucks brollies


inside out. See her in the distance, both smaller

and more certain than you remember.


You booked an Indigenous walking tour

for her birthday. The guide shows


possum pelts and baskets,

photographs and stats: of sheep-heavy


ships, within years there were

six million, mouths to the ground,


munching food sources, hoofed animals

galloping, an empire built on enthusiasm


and brutality. The group clucks concern—if only

they had known better, done better,


listened more, blundered less. Outside

in the rain-fresh air by Birrarung (river of mists),


the guide pulls a leaf with white spots,

people think it’s bird shit or cobwebs


but they’re lerps, from tree lice, sticky sweet

sugar you can eat. Mothers would teach their children


where honey was secreted in a flower,

which leaves to chew on and which to leave alone.


Remember your primary school

project, how proud you were to talk about


orchards planted here by your ancestors, diligent

German immigrants, long-faced and genteel,


settlers who formed a community and

called it Waldau—‘a clearing in the forest’.


How much is missing from your inherited memory?

Apples and pears were razed in favour of


suburban dwelling well before you entered

the family line. Stories passed down your


father’s side but your Mum’s a quieter song

(fragments: Dundee dirt floors, a ship,


a death at war). That photo in the yard, you as a

squint-eyed toddler, chubby and scowling on your


mother’s lap, siblings clustered close, her

face a soft surprise (How did I end up here?)


The tree’s not in the picture, a detail

half-remembered, a kind of drifting


amnesia easy to dismiss. Your life has not (yet)

depended on the knowledge of a tree.

Published: July 2019
Emilie Collyer

lives in West Footscray, on Wurundjeri country, where she writes plays, poetry and prose. Her writing has appeared most recently in Australian Poetry Anthology, Cordite, Overland, and The Lifted Brow. Recent award-winning plays include Dream Home and The Good Girl which premiered in New York in 2016.

An Australian and international
journal of ecopoetry and ecopoetics.

Plumwood Mountain Journal is created on the unceded lands of the Gadigal and Wangal people of the Eora Nation. We pay our respects to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, and to elders past, present and future. We also acknowledge all traditional custodians of the lands this journal reaches.