Young women here

Mparntwe (Alice Springs) 2018

Young women here wear Blundstones, Redbacks, Rollies, leggings with skirts, long sleeve shirts, wide-brimmed hats with colourful bands, or beanies with feathers stitched into the crown, ininti beans sewn all around. Young women here wear their hair long & dreadlocked, tied back in ponytails, single plaits, piled up in topknots, tinted pink, streaked ginger, tipped blonde. Young women here shave their heads, keep a long forelock drooped over one eye, toss it back, leave it hanging like an unanswered question. Young women here wear Raybans and Oakleys, own dogs they name Nugget, Aunty, Lola or Charlie who come when they’re called. Young women here drive big motorcars—Toyotas, Fords, Holdens, Range Rovers—and young women here have done 4 wheel drive courses, know how to change tyres, use snap straps in sand, straddle deep gorges, negotiate spinifex, termite mounds, bulldust and floods. Young women here go camping on country or in dry river beds, sleep in swags by a fire under stars, dreams all sparklling. Young women here never worry—scorpions, ants, mosquitoes a-buzzing or dingos that come sniffing their heads while they sleep—they couldn’t care less! Young women here live in town or out bush, they do Big Shops at Woolies, Coles, North & Eastside IGAs, Piggly Wiggly’s and Hoppy’s, they pack perishables in ice-bricked eskies, box dry goods so they don’t shift in a tray. Young women here stop at Afghan Traders, buy kombucha, fresh bread, vitamin c, b & e, herbal remedies & tea, then young women here drive out of town—north east and west or south west and east—on bush tracks that lead to remote settlements. Young women here run art centres, clinics, councils and schools, work on DV issues, talk up limiting numbers of anything feral: camels, rabbits, donkeys, wild pussy cats. Young women here think mitigation: buffel grass, weeds, invading species or just sit down on country, paint en plein air, write fiction & poetry, make documentaries. Young women here learn a language—Arrernte, Warlpiri, Ammatyere, Alyawarre, or Pititjantjara for APY lands. Young women here love other young women or men who like women. They raise families no frills, raise them healthy and free, take them everywhere with them as part of a team. Young women here bleed and weep, laugh out loud, talk up to government, talk down to rednecks. Young women here live in Old Eastside houses, demountables on blocks out of town, in dongas on Ilparpa Road, rented cabins at Honeymoon Gap where they feel free to do as they please. Young women here were raised by women like us, women who grew up in the fifties and sixties and seventies, came here before them wearing Blundstones and Redbacks, women who worked on land rights and land claims, healthy lifestyle programs, ran art centres, clinics and schools using their wits when there weren’t any rules.

K A Nelson

K A Nelson is a Canberra poet who started writing poetry full time in 2010. Recent Work Press published her first collection, Inlandia, this year. She’s won a couple of prizes, been shortlisted for others, and has been published in the Canberra Time sand elsewhere.

© 2018