Three Koori Love Songs


Safdar Ahmed is a Sydney-based artist and creator of the Walkley Award-winning documentary web-comic Villawood: Notes from an immigration detention centre. He prefers the mediums of drawing and comics, and is currently working on a graphic novel called Still Alive, to be published by Twelve Panels Press next year.

Illustration. ‘To What Earth We’re Heir’ by Safdar Ahmed.

A black and white illustration in brush and fineliner. To the bottom-left, a wide-eyed young person gazes up to the illustration’s focal point, a glowing nautilus, feelers extending through murky waters. Above the young person, a cluster of blood-cell-shaped plankton encircle a quote from one of Luke Patterson’s poems: ‘THE DAY WILL COME WHEN WE CLAIM WHAT EARTH WE’RE HEIR.’ To the right of the nautilus rise thick ropes of kelp, their fronds reflecting the creature’s feelers.
‘To What Earth We’re Heir’ by Safdar Ahmed

The Cooee That Comes Back to You

us-two appear  
shell thick in delicate  
spring all cheek  
chill nip and salt bitten  

tuned to the tideline’s sheer  
wash and correspondence  
sublimated under waratah  
sunrise nudie naturalis  

we are droplets  
kissed being kissed  
kissed by  
the tangling  
untangling of deep time  
inscriptions odorous  
emphatic rhythms of kelp  
and deconstructed mollusc  

a rush  
of hot air  
cool air skin  
hand hair mixed  
mythologies and pigments  
self-organised cellular 
refractions microlithic  
carbon kingdoms  

we find our feet  
and collide in the first  
ow or oh or oo the first  
word the first cooing  
and cooee  
that comes back  
to you  

a tumble of laughter  
and pipi stories spun  
within our grandmothers  
as all love rolls  
and drawn here  

like the old fulla  
whose face resembles  
the trace of mouth  
and brackish lip  
not a line but a circuit 
articulating remarkable  
formations connecting coast  
and mountain through sea  
eagle eyes soaring awesome  

in autochthonous breaths  
us-two walk this track  
along the shore upriver to the core 
and return a thousand lifetimes  

lace dry dune grass  
on oyster rock  
set fire to the smoky manna stuff 
sipping brainstorms  
from the other country

Ash Lullaby

first rain feeling  
in forever folds charred  
acacia season  
across us 
two stark animals  

sooty dark and simmering hills  
spit westerly ash  
pissy asphalt blooms stink  
the land beat black and blue  

country whimpers  

what has been  
squandered in a scintilla  
hissing industry  

what tears a national legend  
of supply  
chain and heated ire  
so swiftly  

a spear pierces  
the prodigal  
settlement stealing stars  
from the sky  

what is to come 
as the bullroarer  
trickles into box gum  
window bushes  
of the mind escape  

tail end of the boom  
born in burnt-out stump thunder 
struck dreaming of coups 
wake bellyaching

To What Earth We’re Heir

I see you bub  
covered in bruises and cuts  
wrestling with angels  
who are demons  
protectors who are keepers  

sails in from time to time  
as you try to catch  
echoes try to catch air  

and the strange estrangement  
bloodletting a trail  
of birth certificates  
a trail of death  
no trace  
of birth or death  
but a mention  
on mission registers  
unspeakable skeletons  
defleshed in the closets  
of godfearing forefathers  
spreading the good word  
across this burnt continent  

it is what it is  
to live another day in the colony 
with the blak slapped out of us 
with white whispers  
telling you to host sad secrets 
we were bred to fester  
in our heart  
shoot us for dead  
then absorption  
convince us to forget  
who we are  

bear the hurts hard  
full of fire my love  
dismantle the master’s mantra 
learn what happened  
here to whom  

let blood-memory mend 
a scar tree’s wounds  
expose your vulnerability 
your mask uncoming done 
i’ll hold you  

because true-god our truth 
hurts it burns to the last 
embers of your life  

but it’s worth if you’re willing 
to let the lucky country die 

and in that death  
you’ll find  
wattle flood the street  
we engender our own bodies  
take care of the weak  
without worrying  
about survival 
our birthright  

yes bub  
the day will come  
when we claim  
what earth we’re heir  
and holiday on country  
on the ruins of parliament house  
and our ancestors sleep sound  
home in skycamp