TO AN UNNAMED ISLAND CONTINENT
Plain upon plain upon plain
Distance has no meaning here
Marked out neatly in anthill monuments to nothing.
Saltpans dreaming whitely of long dead seas
Blunted mountains conceding slow defeat to erosion.
And yet
Here on the coast
Crammed into their five cities
The newcomers vociferously proclaim the name “Australia”
Hoping by endless repetition
To convince themselves that they belong.
On hoardings, in newspapers, in every second word uttered.
In a manner foreign and unthinkable
To those who really know a homeland.
“Australia” — “Australian” – Willing it to be true.
But those who knew
Dark ghost tribes long since gone
Left only local names to mark their path
From Dreamtime to Genocide.
And the invader
Brash with the confidence of a mere two hundred years
Seeks to impose a name
And appoints a surfeit of politicians
To convince him of its truth.
But should he stray, just once, from the safety of his flock
This ancient land will wrap him round with silence
And choke the name unuttered in his throat
With desert sand
And he will know at last the nameless name
Of this great land that claims his mortal dust.

H. St. V. B. 1972