I love Darwin for both its beauty and its pain. Last year, Barack Obama paid us a visit. I walked around the CBD the day before he came, seeing the things he would see – our homeless people, known as LongGrassers (although many of these were moved out of the CBD for the visit), and – in particular – The Pigeon Lady. The President stopped on the Esplanade to lay a wreath for the US servicemen who died here in WWII. During the same visit, he negotiated the development of a US base on Darwin soil. The circularity of militarism and the ongoing death of mothers’ sons struck me.
The Pigeon Lady waits on the corner
with her cages and the media.
A chopper presses the air
for news from home.
A crocodile drools
over rolled up sleeves.
The chopper can’t choose
which gifts to take back, ticks off lists.
The Pigeon Lady wonders
if home is excess baggage.
A LongGrasser wishes people
would have a good night, misses people.
Someone has pissed on the Milkwood. Someone
arms another lot of sons and pays with flowers.
A patrol boat cuts through the rain.
Handshakes, signed papers, the wake. Waves
curl like the lips of the drowned dead.
Petals, lullaby, a crushing weight.
Treading water, the chopper calls
for someone to change the track.
A cage. A plane
that apes the sky.
The wide, blue eyes
of your mistress.
Home carries you.
Or do you carry home?
The chopper sweats on a telegram:
Where have you got to now, my son?
A chopper doesn’t have answers.
A bodyguard has no lips. A sniper
can only do his best.
But the floor of the cage is a mess.
Earlier this year, an incident of police brutality occurred in Kings Cross, Sydney. The video footage is very distressing but if you feel like you can watch it, you may find it here:
Essentially, a teenage passenger in a car was firstly shot and then bashed and dragged by police. He was a young boy with a serious head wound but rather than attend to his injuries, one of the police officers continued to hurt him. This is my response.
blood cradling his head, police fist
cracking his birthdays: how many,
how many years?
Cameras open their mouths.
Legs dragged through the mess as if that
is going to help
They’re lost boys.
The man calling for back-up –
a lost boy,
burnt to a stump by middle-age.
There is a son who’ll hear these things
as often as it takes.
He leaves the passenger
a used rag.
He wipes his hand.
Partner monitors signs, watches
something sinking, some thing
with $3 credit left
and a father.
Lenses swell with blood,
say, ‘They can’t do that’.
Say it again:
‘They’re not allowed to do that’.
Nobody’s brother at 4 a.m.
on a Kings Cross street
wants them to do that.
And, finally, after war and death, a cute love poem, hot off the press!
Jumps & Starts
Witness the start of an incoming tide,
its bottom lip. Walk
against the might of the ocean,
the might of the moon. Record
the first of the mango blossoms
fronting up to the cold. Watch
the season turn in his eyes
when he smells your scent. Save
that initial text that changed everything.
Don’t jump at the wave behind you.
A crocodile makes no sound.
So don’t jump.
If, one day, you’re eventually taken,
better it happens while you’re smiling
at the memory of him,
the way he says your name.
Written by Sandra Thibodeaux
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