Taxi! (Brenda Saunders) & Transformative Progress (Barbara Nicholson)


by Brenda Saunders

I met her at the lights with six plastic bags
Food bought at Woollies
with a Salvo’s card
making for the taxis on Pitt and Park

Black and proud. She’s used to cabs
Never mentions high-rise
The Block or Waterloo

Asks the driver first in line
‘Are you free? Can you open the boot please?

Waits, as he looks up from the ‘Form’
suspecting trouble he takes no bets
says he’s booked

The man in a Silver Cab examines
his windscreen, has no answer
to her open smile

Her missing teeth held against her
Angry, I see round three’s up to me
Demand a ride from a waiting cab
while she dumps her stuff
and jumps inside

‘I’ve got their numbers, I’ll follow through’
I yell to the cab as she moves away

Her strong voice trails a defiant response

‘I always ring, but it don’t change nothin’
Same, same story with real black skin’


Transformative Progress

by Barbara Nicholson

From in the time that defies measure
We know it as the Dreaming
And long before I gained my human form,
I watched my people, my ancestors
Live, love and enjoy the infinite wealth
Of the Land, Our Mother.
I saw them feast on the finest produce
From land, sea, lake and stream.
I saw them warm, comfortable and happy
In their spiritual knowings
At one with all creation.
Content with few yet sufficient material things
Kept warm by possum skins and sacred fires
Healthy bodies robust, gleaming in sun, moon and fire light.

I knew my time to join them was soon
And when I came from the Dreaming
All was as I had witnessed from time immemorial.
Then came people of different skin,
They had strange animals, they had guns,
Their possum skins were wrong, their food poisonous
They had strange and hideous customs,
We heard new words for our sacred rites,
Our customs, beliefs and sacred sites
They talked with harsh staccato sounds
Not like the soft murmurings of our language
They were quite stupid and had a bad smell.

But very soon and with inexorable speed
An all consuming change would come
Very soon the abundance that once sustained my people
Was depleted by ruthless exploitation
And now no more midiny, no more gadyun. Wuri.
No more bimblas, dalgal, pippies. Wuri.
No more magura, yara, badangi. Wuri.
No more warraburra, ngalangala, gurgi. Wuri.
No more midjuburi,  buruwan, wadunguri. Wuri.
No more marrang bulga. Wuri.

Now steelworks, coal mines, concrete
Desecrate the land with toxic industry.
Supermarkets replace natural abundance
Once we rich in natures’ gifts,
Now we poor, but got our Dreaming.
People with strange skin got no Dreaming
Just rich money way, got sad faces.
Big boss whitefella call it progress.

My body gleams,
My possum skins and sacred fires sustain me
I live in the richness of my Dreaming.

Glossary of Aboriginal words

Badangi… rock oyster
Buruwun… rock lily
Dalgal… black mussels
Gadyan, bimblas… cockles/vongole
Gurrgi… bracken fern root.
Magura… fish
Midiny… yam
Ngalangala… mushroom
Pippies… small clam
Marrang bulga… sandhills, home of returning spirits.
Midjuburi… lilli pilli, native cherry tree
Wadunguri… banksia, native flower
Warraburra… Native sarsaparilla
Wuri… lost, gone
Yara… crab

Brenda Saunders & Barbara Nicholson act as mentors/editors for Verity La’s Emerging Indigenous Writers’ Project. Find out more about them, the project, and its third editor, Phillip Hall, here.