The floodplain, green, green, at peace // as far as the eye can see. But when // Namarrgon1 strikes his axes inside the clouds // the rain will come. // The truth is in the water. Among the // watercress and pink lilies, beneath the // paperbarks and naughty trees2, where the // pandanus spike and the Jesus bird walks // on water, that ginga doesn’t move. He’s // been waiting there two days. If the buffalo // comes to drink at its usual time, those jaws // will drag it down and drown it in red water // Crocodile tucker! There’s another ginga3 // a female, snout-cruising for a lover. She’d // better watch out for the jabiru bird; its black // beak can crack a croc’s head open like an egg // The truth is also in the sky. Our first people’s // ancestors are always watching. Heed them // and you will be safe in country.
- Namarrgon: the lightning man; stone axes attached to his head, elbows, and knees are used to make thunder.
- Itchy trees: Mangroves harbor insects that cause skin irritation; that’s why mums and aunties send naughty aboriginal children to play in them.
- Ginga: a crocodile.
James Aitchison is an Australian author and poet. His poetry has appeared in two Australian anthologies, and in the US and UK. Writing as James Lee, his children’s books have sold over three million copies in Asia. Visit flameoftheforest.com to see them all.