Living Archives

I want to record the day I began to realise that Australia lives because there’s a 50,000 year old pulse throbbing through it. It’s still throbbing thanks to the elders who keep the rituals that have grown over that time, they still sing the land, they walk it, they dream it, they listen to the Ancestors, and despite 200 plus years of Western meddling, or inspite of it, they continue to pass on their knowledge and tradition to the next generation.

I’ve heard about the connection between Indigenous People and the land, but until today, I didn’t know what it meant. It seems to me that over the same period in World history, most people’s relationship to land has shifted in the opposite direction; apart from the odd exception , say in the Amazon or parts of Africa. It probably happened after we got the idea of staying put and breeding animals for food rather than hunting them.

Yes, of course the relationship farmers, small growers and gardeners have to land, is different to the one non-growers and most city dwellers have. Yes, hard working farmers and peasants  have, for generations, sewn seeds, and harvested their crops or farmed animals for food and clothing. They know the seasons, they read the signs the land and the weather give them. But that bone-deep, living connection? Nah, we haven’t had it since we stopped gathering or hunting and started farming and tethering.

In general, we don’t touch stones and greet them as though they are old friends or relatives. 

Some, even among city dwellers, will know the names and properties of certain plants, their healing properties, how to cook them, eat them. But who knows how to hunt these days? Really hunt.  For food, for survival.  Whatever we know today, us Non-Aboriginal or Non-Torres Strait Islanders, ours is an infinately limited knowledge; scraps left over from the deep knowledge our  ancient ancestors once had of every plant, every stream, water hole, every blade of grass, every rock.

Our Ancestors were living Archives: their knowledge came from experience, experimentation, and they taught consecutive genrations through ritual, story, song and dance.

When we talk about the living relationship Indigenous people have to their country, that is precisely what it is.

With respect to Wurundjeri Guardians of The Yarra past and present

The information this country’s First Custodians hold about their country is a living knowledge that encompasses every tree; its bark, leaves, the juices it creates and secretes, the bugs, insects, reptiles that may live in it, when they come when they leave. Their knowledge encompasses every living thing within their environs, every rock (and its individual name), and the characteristic of every living thing.  This knowledge runs through their very bodies and returns to the land with every step and every breath they take.

Their knowledge must never be lost, though most of it has been lost, there are efforts being made to retrieve it. You can’t find it in the library.  You have to experience it, and make yourself a repository of knowledge as the elders have.

Mapping the Interior

Sometimes it is an ocean
rolling swells and fierce crashing  
Breaks clap the shore then
gentle laps wash the sand   

Sometimes a tapestry in  
Blue green hues: 
open plains 
distant misted valleys 

Dry sand dune days
Slowly shift across a horizon 
always out of reach 

At times an arid 
pebbled surface  
scalding my feet
beneath a haze of heat 
brown and rust and gold 

In deep caverns 
the occasional green  
where the  trickle of water 
from a rocky ledge echoes

a long  meandering 
stream snakes 
through a crack in the earth 
beneath overhanging ledges
a tunnel undulating
beneath the overhang’s still 
silent gaze

Intimacy is implied

it’s new to me

this business of


dancing words

of throw and catch looks

bodies proximate

intimacy is implied

laying down your guard

for the gaze of another

is implied to one who never learnt

how to interpret your offer


I wanted a word with you

I wanted constancy

weight as my feet slipped slid upon

oiled surfaces

feeling for a place

I thought it was here


it was here

was it?

was I there?

or elsewhere

as always


we spoke

my thoughts ran ahead

tripped over themselves and

tripped me up along the way

as thoughts often do

being carriers of fear


we walked side by side

did we walk side by side?

your hand sought mine

I thought it had

perhaps my hand

sought yours

oblivious of the fears riding my thoughts into the sunset


perhaps it was my body lying naked there between us



seeking confirmation Image

A Drop at a Time


Fallen Feather by Fran Byrne

After much scratching of head about how to greet ‘Christmas’ as a lapsed and deeply cynical Christian, I found inspiration from this photo on I was hoping I would find a picture that would speak to life and all its oddity, the magic of it and the incidental horror of it… this beautiful shot sort of fits, anyway it did inspire some words. This is the closest I can come to a Christmas Greeting and not feel a hypocrite. Blessings to you, however you may find them:

Delicate and delicious and frighteningly beautiful strange and malevolent floating flying nature falling in harmony and altogether out of sync odd and loveable dirty and unshaven pure and crystal clear strong and enduring fragile as a feather.

Life is in the living breath is always moving we are together one ocean

We are each of us one small drop at a time.

I Drew A Line

In the sleeping Night, the Black  swallows the world whole, dulls its sounds, and all of us in it, no longer hanging but held. Laughter falls silent, swallowed whole. Talk is a hush that falls on Nodding ears.

Nights are my Days. I keep the watch in this small corner of the wide world. I hold it in my sight and nurse it through the dark turn until the Black opens wide its jaw and breathes us out again.  In silence I carry my duty as I have done since my earliest memories.

Not in the time I spent curled in your arms hummed to sleep by deep tones. But after. When my feet hit the ground with a thud and I had to run before I learnt to walk, chasing you while demons chased me that I did not know how to name.  I thought I saw you – many times – on the horizon and called and waved and jumped for joy. My other self, my twin self, within reach. I called and wondered why you didn’t reply. I didn’t know it was your shadow I’d been chasing, or how strangely shadows behave. I soon learnt that you can’t touch a shadow. You can try but you’ll go mad seeing your hand swallowed up in its shape, and still never know the feel of its touch. Once I learnt the difference between substance and shadow, I with-held my wave and learnt to simply nod in its direction, let it pass without murmur.

But the habit of seeking out was too strong after the years of searching. And so, I took it upon my shoulders to watch the Night and its mate, the Black, to be sure no harm came to the streets laid out beneath like pieces of a jigsaw spilt on the ground by a careless hand.

A creature has joined my solitary watch, which I call a bat.  It lands on my shoulder, digs its claws in and keeps company with me or should I say forces it’s company on me, or should I say terrorises me, for the rest of the night.  We sit on the sturdy chair at the window, yawning open, large as life, above the ground outside the street. Me. And the bat.  It never tires of its perch, the dig of its claws, the burn piercing my flesh.  The single drool of blood is cool slipping down my skin. I don’t move not even a wince…

I draw this red line to mark the boundary between me and the world.   I tell the world, “You are outside me as I am inside you.”

In the West, I see the moon is low, the Black is stealing grey, and soon pink and blue shall finger the sky.  I draw my skin tight and shield me from the coming glare. The bat I call Wise nods once, spreads its wings and unclasps its claws from my shoulder.  Our guardianship is finished for the night. Below, the street is safe, I chance that I am safe, bid the bat good day and rise to my sleep.

wme © 2011

Intimacy is Implied

I need assistance

Give me a word a sign

Can’t you?

Here, I lack substance, weight

my feet cross oiled surfaces, slip and slide,

hands try to grasp words



It was here

It was here

Was it?

But I was  elsewhere as always

Any elsewhere but here

Was it?

Where we walked hand in hand

Both alone with our palpitations

Our breaths didn’t dare to mix

Our thoughts ran ahead and

Tripped over themselves and

Tripped us up along the way

As thoughts often do

Being the eating houses of Hope and Fear

We walked side by side hand in hand

Oblivious to them riding our thoughts into the sunset

It’s new to me

All this business of sewing seeds

All this laying down of skin-self

For the inspection of another

Intimacy is offered

to one who may not

who cannot know how to interpret the offer

And you

What do you offer?

Am I to stand here sans skin

Uncertain of the outcome?

Am I to wait breath-bated for a decision to be made

As to the value of my offer?

Is this how the game is played?

wme 20011

Imagine Palestine!



oops, apologies to mikevderderien whose blog this is, some how I pressed something that makes it look like I wrote this brilliant piece. Patience, please, while my baby fingers learn to walk this parade!  – wme

4 am’s

It’s become his four a.m ritual to stare down the night. He loves perching on the door step of the balcony in that hour still in the stillness that surrounded him.
After he’d sat there long enough, he started to gauge lines and shapes and realised the dark was not a solid mass of opacity. That there were layers
overlapping one on top of the next and the next. Gauze-like and cobweb fine. Who wove them, Mr Rafael wondered, and what did they weave them with to make them so fine? Mr Rafael traced an outline that was now so clear to his keen green eyes that he could trace it without straining. It was barely a whisper of something in the air, so light, it wavered in front of him. Long and thin and pale. His old green almondovals glittered into the dark, and he thought he detected the ever so slight nod of a head and gave his own gentle nod back…

Mr Rafael will return when he has concluded his musings… goodnight.

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