My father’s radio.
Its rousing chords mark the first sounds of the day
the morning hour, the national bulletin –
My eyes open onto angles of weatherboard walls,
stooping on their black-soil foundations.
Under a single sheet, I lie listening and still
his soft footfalls on the kitchen’s lino,
the burst of the tap filling the kettle.
A match’s strike doing double-duty
for the stove and his cigarette,
a new packet’s foil usually folded into a silver crane
and set atop the waxed tablecloth.
I rise when the kettle whistles
scampering to fall behind the man
like he did with his father
and his father before him.
The day braces for Summer’s heat,
early morning dew teases.
Galahs, teeming pink and grey, fleck the horizon’s blush
while Painted Honeyeaters play amongst
a tree’s collar of mistletoe vine,
so blessed with colonising tendencies
it’s deemed a ‘noxious weed’.
The yards, an old jumble of logs, split and stacked,
with calves penned overnight to lure the milkers,
hocks soiled with anxiety.
In the shed rafters a tin of Marconi’s Goanna Salve,
the Diggers’ cure-all, to soften cracked skin.
(Those fearsome swaggering lizards
somehow rendered a fragrant paste!)
A cow is tethered and tied,
her calf free to feed –
for not long enough.
His nod signals me to wrangle the pair apart
so his hands can take over from where the calf left off.
An odd moment of connection, each offspring
looking to their parent
for direction, for assurance.
His head settles near her warm flank
the waiting bucket wedged between his legs.
Fingers squeezing and trapping along the teats,
the scene’s score a meter of guided gush and a target’s ting.
All bindings released,
Nature’s pair restored,
the calf soon bunting for more.
Back along the path long pressed into the ground.
The bucket’s sway leaving creamy foam dashes in between.
These lessons are easier than those in the classroom:
the embodied rather than the inscribed.
Dawn’s banner now pierced
he walks glowing in his own world.
The path’s grass gives way to the house’s garden,
a skirt of lawn drawing from all around
to flush its folds with green.
The backdoor squeak preludes the next hourly bulletin.
Years have passed.
I can only visit that place
in the story of my childhood.
Then, I took all in blind.
Now demands a revision.
Butch was your best stockman,
Harold your hardest worker.
Their tongue lingered in local names – towns and rivers and falls
but Their mob lost
in soundbites – ‘Good for nothin’ ’
in jokes – bull bars and corrugated iron.
In the white man’s law.
My children – I have three—they opened my eyes.
Projects brought home from school:
referendums and Free Riders,
all that went down at my local pool.
I see now, in stark relief against the everyday,
like Light Horsemen drilling on parade,
the logic of elimination – for the land, the land, the land.
Memories from my childhood’s home –
the traditional land of the Kamilaroi but back then,
crops of sun-baked grain an empire’s Golden Triangle,
and time marked by ‘Majestic Fanfare’ across the radio waves.
The landscape’s tussocks
punctuated with Belah, Box and Brigalow.
Those trees, timber shadows cast millennia before
like a star’s travelling light, Their history in our midst.
The shade lines sway with Their songlines –
every leaf an ancient note, an ancient beam.
Above, constellations, strung across the Milky Way
the Kamilaroi’s astral watercourse Warambul.
And the brightest star? Their goanna, the Guugaarr.
To think of it –
that charged landscape,
its thrum makes the great Australian silence deafening.
What I was taught, pestilence in thy ear.
Generation to generation,
we waved to Their new ancestor, Ordeal.
Today my hands sit idle,
I acknowledge, on unceded lands.
But my hands are haunted –
with those of my father
and his father before him.
I am still
“logic of elimination” Wolfe, Patrick. “Nation and miscegenation: Discursive continuity in the post-Mabo era.” Social Analysis: The International Journal of Anthropology, no. 36, 1994, pp. 93-152.
“great Australian silence” Stanner, W E H. “After the Dreaming.” Boyer Lectures, ABC, Sydney, 1968.
“pestilence in thy ear” Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616. Othello : 1622. Oxford :Clarendon Press, 1975.
“new ancestor, Ordeal” Whittaker, Alison. ‘Many Girls White Linen.’ Fire Front First Nations Poetry and Power Today, edited by Alison Whittaker, University of Queensland Press, 2020, pp. 57-58.
“Warambul” “Guugaarr” “Kamilaroi and Euahlayi.” Australian Indigenous Astronomy, www.aboriginalastronomy.com.au/content/community/kamilaroi.
Katherine Hoskin has a multidisciplinary background in Design, Economics and History, having lived, studied and worked in Sydney, Hong Kong and the United States. All this now provides a fascinating font for her Creative Writing studies at MQ. Especially those instances where her family’s history collides with formative national events. This is her first published piece.