Lily Nungarrayi at Catfish Waterhole, Northern Tanami Desert, 2015

Piccaninny Gorge (Brenda Saunders)

 “that’s where the spirit is … that’s where
  the Dreaming is.”
                                — Patrick Mung Mung

He paints his Ngarranggarni Dreaming
in ochres from his fathers’ Country.  
Flattens, folds the red-brown hills, loops
a creek-line with a row of white dots.                  

Each local tribe claims to hold
the true Creation Story, keeps 
secret the lore over Bungle Bungle.  
There are no names, no guide to 
lead us on Gidgi and Djaru Country.  
Piccaninny, a name for ‘baby’   
found in white men’s Dreaming.                  

Time creeps here, holds secrets
inside these banded walls, the path 
forever open to mystery. There is  
no Women’s Dreaming to follow
to lead us down this dry canal
smoothed each year by a creek 
forging through in flood.                          

I imagine generations of women
walking this sandy bed after rain
has filled the bathing pools. 
Rock holes cleansed, rounded 
by wind and water. Limestone
slaked blue by ancient coral reefs 
raised from an inland sea.                               

Our voices echo, ring a great chasm
open to the sky. Blood-red walls
close in. Womb-like they circle 
a pond shining lapis blue. A miracle 
shields this space from change, 
the spring, a birthing place perhaps
cradling forever the silent water.          


* Feature image: ‘Lily Nungarrayi at Catfish Waterhole, Northern Tanami Desert, 2015’ by Judith Nangala Crispin

Brenda Saunders Brenda Saunders is a descendant and Elder from the Stolen Generations. Her mob are Wiradjuri from the Capertee Valley near Bathurst NSW, but she now lives in Sydney. She has published three collections of poetry and her work has appeared in major anthologies and journals, including Australian Poetry Journal, Overland, Southerly, and Best Australian Poems in 2013 and 2015 (Black Inc). She has received numerous prizes including the Mick Dark Varuna Environmental Writers’ Fellowship, the Banjo Patterson Poetry Prize, and was a finalist in the prestigious Aesthetica Prize (UK) and the International Vice-Chancellors Poetry Prize (University of Canberra). In 2018 she won the Oodgeroo Noonuccal Prize (Queensland Poetry) and the Joanne Burns Award ( Spineless Wonders). For many years Brenda was an activist for Aboriginal Heritage and Native Title reform. Her next book addresses new threats and challenges to Country and culture since Colonisation.


Judith Nangala Crispin is an artist and poet living near Lake George, New South Wales. Her visual arts practice is centred around Lumachrome glass printing, a combination of lumen printing, chemigram and cliché verre techniques. Judith has published a collection of poetry, The Myrrh-Bearers (Sydney: Puncher & Wattmann, 2015), and a book of images and poems, The Lumen Seed (New York: Daylight Books, 2017). Her illustrated verse novel, The Dingo’s Noctuary, will be published with Daylight Books in 2020.