Poems from The Full Dress

"Cattle Ancestor" first appeared in Translations From the Natural World (see Bibliography). "Purrumbete from Across the Lake" is by Eugene von Guerard, 1858 (detail: click to see full painting).

Other Poems from The Full Dress

Eugene von Guerard: Purrumbete (detail)


Cattle Ancestor

Darrambawli and all his wives, they came feeding from the south-east
back in that first time. Darrambawli is a big red fellow,
terrible fierce. He scrapes up dust, singing, whirling his bullroarers
in the air: he swings them and they sing out Crack! Crack!
All the time he's mounting his women, all the time more kulka,
more, more, smelling their kulka and looking down his nose.
Kangaroo and emu mobs run from him, as he tears up their shelters,
throwing the people in the air, stamping out their fires.
Darrambawli gathers up his brothers, all making that sad cry mar mar:
He initiates his brothers, the Bulluktruk. They walk head down in a line
and make the big blue ranges. You hear their clinking noise in there.
Darrambawli has wives everywhere, he has to gallop back and forth,
mad for their kulka. You see him on the coast, and on the plains.
They're eating up the country, so the animals come to spear them:
You have to die now, you're starving us. But then Waark the crow
tells Darrambawli Your wives, they're spearing them. He is screaming,
frothing at the mouth, that's why his chest is all white nowadays.
Jerking two knives, he screams I make new waterholes! I bring the best song!
He makes war on all that mob, raging, dotting the whole country.
He frightens the water-snakes; they run away, they can't sit down.
The animals forget how to speak. There is only one song
for a while. Darrambawli must sing it on his own.


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