Malangi at Yathalamarra

Early on he painted the story
Of Girrmirriŋu, the great hunter, who travelled
   From Mulaŋa, country of Malangi’s birth,
To die on Mooroonga, over the sea,
Beneath räka, the white berry-bush. This Malangi
Gave, unknown, to the currency,
Its meaning unknown as well.

And at Yathalamarra, his mother’s country,
Waterhole to which he was to return,
He painted Darter, Emu, catfish,
Long-necked turtle, water-lily—
For Yolŋu to remember and rehearse
Sacred stories, for balanda
To step away from their untruths.

By John Leonard

 

bark painting artwork on dollar bill
Picture of Australian one dollar note featuring the bark painting artwork of David Malangi. Photo by the author.


John Leonard was born in the UK and came to Australia in 1991. He completed a PhD at the University of Queensland and was poetry editor of Overland from 2003 to 2007. He has five collections of poetry. His Think of the World: Collected Poems 1986-2016 is available from lulu.com. His poetry has been translated into French, Croatian, Spanish and Chinese and published in those versions. Read more of his work at John Leonard’s Literary Pages. Photo by the author.

Two Poems

Nights of Early Spring

Nights of early spring, when evening,
With its scent of wattle, earth-warming,
Yields to the deep sky of stars,
The gusting, freezing, wild wind.

The year awakes and, before bird-song,
Flowers, the strength of sunshine,
The emptiness of longing, emptiness
Of night, marks the turn.

By John Leonard

 

Every Wood-Lane

You walk down every wood-lane—
Always in spring, when blossoms lift
In the wind, finches call—
And this is your gift, straying
Apart; yet what do you have
For those who are not with you?

Their sight is as keen, but does not
See what you see, reckon
What you know, they,

And their knowledge, cannot be apart
  From yours, must see
The boughs, smell the damp woods.

By John Leonard

couple walks on path under trees


John Leonard was born in the UK and came to Australia in 1991. He completed a PhD at the University of Queensland and was poetry editor of Overland from 2003 to 2007. He has five collections of poetry. His Think of the World: Collected Poems 1986-2016 is available from lulu.com. His poetry has been translated into French, Croatian, Spanish and Chinese and published in those versions. Read more of his work at John Leonard’s Literary Pages.

Photo of wood lane by satori