Yin Barun Road

Crossing the highway, furtive as a snake,
it slips through bush towards indeterminate hills.
We turned aside and stopped,
two ancients and an ancient car,
after a northern summer’s pilgrimage,
homing to a sacred site through years remembered.
Eve-like, you rummaged in the picnic basket;
self-conscious Adam, I found a handy tree.
But no one went and no one came:
the place received us, with silence and acceptance.
The barbed-wire fence, the galvanised iron shed,
spoke in a childhood language. In spring-wet grass
the grazing bullocks did not lift a head.
A distant buried roof raised not an eyebrow.
In the near paddock red-gum veterans flexed
their knotted muscles, their lost limbs on the ground,
each tree a rugged individual, alien
to ordered woodlands, regiments of pines.
But from their tops a grace, like leaves descending
ministered to my spirit, and from the ground
an essence seemed to rise, a liberation
of coming home, Catullus’ joy in greeting
his longed-for hearth after long foreign travel,
all burdens laid aside.
     The moment’s stillness
suddenly broke. A Holden ute bumped by,
mud-and-dust spattered; from its cabin window
a wordless grin and wave. We had come full circle;
fulfilment, thanks. The First Australians knew it –
not Terra Nullius: rather being owned.

Richard’s choice

Poems of Australia