Poetry / Tegan Jane Schetrumpf

At Kuranda

At Kuranda
for Oodgeroo Noonuccal

When I was a girl, I won
Your award for my poem: Walking Together.
I didn’t know your name inscribed on the trophy
I only knew Kath Walker.

When I was a girl, I knew
Our land belonged to Darkingjung whale people.
I knew Budgewoi meant meeting of the waters.
I wrote about indigenous rights
Because our school had no black kids.
I didn’t know then to be self-conscious
Of words like imperialism.

On my way to Kuranda
I saw women giving children little paper flags
For Sorry Day.

On my way from the old white airport
Tucked into the green arm of coast
The cabbie talked of gangs of drunk and violent abos.

On my way to Tjapukai Cultural Park
I remembered the old open air performances:
Painted men flapping like birds, feet elegant as brolgas.

But inside by the buffet table I cringed to see
A plastic tree and red-rock fibreglass on stage.

After the tourist buses were gone
After the performance was over
One dancer sat on a campfire log
Smoking a cigarette.

I sat too, determined to show him
All the things I knew
Which made me different
From other whites, the camera-shutter crowd.

I sat silent so long, my stare disquieted him.
There was nothing to say. Every word felt false.

I wish I could go to Minjerribah
Where rock rises from the blue green grotto sea
As old and dusty on top as dried banksias.

I wish I could be a girl again,
One of the black, white, or green kids
You taught at Moongalba.
I’d have you teach me colour-blindness;
I’d have you teach me
About the carpet snake and the paperbark.

Tegan Jane Schetrumpf

At Kuranda was first published in Antipodes.


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