At the single women’s camp

Molly, Biddy, Addie, Bess and May don’t care
about the grey beards sprouting from their chins.
They couldn’t give a wild fig about their matted
hair, old scars, husbands, lovers, the living or the dead.

They burn wood, hotwire seeds for necklaces,
mark time, paint dots on canvases. They’re laughing
at the antics of the dogs or one more whitefella
who comes with questions, other kinds of wanting.

In their small circle behind this broken fence,
they’ve done with looking after, finished mothering,
silent now and wise.  Their only wish?  A decent feed,
a lift to country when things are ripe: wild passionfruit,
bush tomatoes, bush bananas, ininti seeds.

Let the young ones hunt echidna and goanna.

After all their gathering, these women are content
to sit, sip tea, eat what we’ve packed in eskies
or a box.  They’ve stopped bleeding, crying, caring,
wanting anything . . . except trips to country,


Molly, Biddy, Addie, Bess and May are painted up!
The ochre patterns on their bodies map their country.
See how they gently stamp their feet and sway?


They’re singing up hills and soaks and dreaming
sites with bare breasted dignity, knowing limbs,
ochre lines and circles the language of the land.
Each woman’s body is their country and a songline
they’re passing on to younger women, kin.

KA Nelson

K A Nelson is the guest editor of this issue of Not Very Quiet.