Royalty

Phillip Hall

 

for millad Miller & Raggett mob

 

I drove out bush with family

again to Jayipa

a catfish hole lined

with paperbark and river gum

and those gleaming quartzite outcrops

like a silver and zinc plinth encompassing

dark sheet water:

 

we hopped, stinging, across the baked

earth, a tessellated black

soil with small sand drifts gathering

to the decaying stone-boiled edges:

 

and while nana fired

a billy, weaving

pandunus frond sieves

we all crashed, energised

in the brown water’s warm wash:

 

in the late afternoon

cool relief as pop arrived to dig

a bush-turkey ground-oven

we all set to work:

 

the boys

took a castnet and handlines

for barra

while the girls hunted

in water, feeling

in the mud

for waterlily bulbs, onions and yams:

 

later they tap-danced the mud

sweetening our outlook –

a seismic detection service reading

for hibernating turtles –

a shelled familial finery:

 

at nightfall

our guts tight

with their fill we fired

the billy and traced

stars as pop smoked us

in quandong, picking us up:

 

and nana sang country, rousing

the scrub

and a rainbow’s payback on this mine’s seepage,

and another’s foreshadowed hole in our burial grounds,

mucking us up

making us sick.

 

 

Millad: is Kriol in the Gulf region of northern Australia for the first person plural pronoun: we, us, our.

 

Phillip Hall is an essayist and poet working as an editor with Verity La’s “Emerging Indigenous Writers’ Project”. In 2014 he published Sweetened in Coals. He is currently working on a collection of place-based poetry called Fume. This project celebrates, and responds to, Indigenous Culture in the Northern Territory’s Gulf of Carpentaria.

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