Old Walter, Old Tutuma, and others,
Irregular rhythm makers,
Singing to the hoodoos,
Clapping hands and tamping feet.
A dry and desert-like skein
Beneath the unmeasurable black portal
Awaiting the stars, and rain, and lightning of night.
“Is this red our blood?” I asked.
Their voices hummed rhythmically, susurrous;
Ancient sound, a sound like no other;
Sound from the silicic tide pool
Spawned from the dark ocean of frothing sand.
A ceremony of singing and tapping of sticks,
Integral within the roundels’ compass,
Alternating frequencies, duple and triple,
Changing and slackening over time.
The curious sliding of one sound into another.
The sound of the violin gut tuning:
Guttural, erect, elemental.
It was the thing itself, not something mediated;
Made perfect by its immediacy,
Astonishing in the newness,
Like an undistilled encounter:
The soft kiss upon the lips
Coalescing into clarity,
A glimmering razor's vision
Scything the obsidian-enameled heart.
Waulked vagabonds taking title
Through mere sibilances of air;
Instinctual inheritors of patulous songs
Dreamed long ages before the jar in Tennessee,
Before the fulminant conversion from Story to Atom,
Singing sweetest in the silence of the last solitude,
Casting eyes heavenward, heads aslant,
To the vertiginous arcing of the white-peppered stars,
Ludic mummers dreaming the universe.
A poem dedicated to Barbara Wilkerson.
By Ron Ackers, owner, director, and CEO of Design Sydney-East,
representing leading Australian Aboriginal artists.
"Stars, Rain, and Lightning at Night," by Kingsley Tjungurrayi
(ca. 1917-1977), synthentic polymer and enamel paint on composition
board, (27 1/3" x 9 1/8" / 70.63 x 23.18 cm), collection of
John & Barbara Wilkerson, New York.
"Music of the Australian Aboriginals," by George William Torrance,
Harrison & Sons, Printers, 1887;
"The Anecdote of the Jar," by Wallace Stevens, from "Harmonium,"
Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1922.
"The Speed of Darkness," by Murial Rukeyser, Vintage Press, 1971.