blackmail press 23
Ali Cobby-Eckermann

I Tell You True

I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
Since I watched my daughter perish
She burned to death inside a car
I lost what I most cherish
I saw the angels hold her
As I screamed with useless hope
I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
It’s the only way I cope!

I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
Since I found my sister dead
She hung herself to stop the rapes
I found her in the shed
The rapist bastard still lives here
Unpunished in this town
I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
Since I cut her down.

I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
Since my mother passed away.
They found her battered down the creek
I miss her more each day
My family blamed me for her death
Their words have made me wild
I can’t stop drinking, I tell you true
‘Cos I was just a child.

So if you see someone like me
Who’s drunk and loud and cursing
Don’t judge too hard, you never know
What sorrows we are nursing.

Circles and Squares

I was born Yankunytjatjara
My Mother is Yankunytjatjara
Her Mother was Yankunytjatjara
My Family is Yankunytjatjara

I have learnt many things from my Family Elders
I have grown to recognise that my Life travels in Circles
My Aboriginal Culture has taught me that
Universal Life is Circular

When I was born I was not allowed to live with my Family
I grew up in the white man’s world

We lived in a Square house
We picked fruit and vegetables from a neatly fenced Square plot
We kept animals in Square paddocks
We sat and ate at a Square table
We sat on Square chairs
I slept in a Square bed

I looked at myself in a Square mirror and did not know who I was

One day I met my Mother
I just knew that this meeting was part of our Healing Circle

Then I began to travel
I visited places that I had been before

But this time I sat down with Family

We gathered closely Together by big Round campfires
We ate bush tucker, feasting on Round ants and berries
We ate meat from animals that lived in Round burrows
We slept in Circles on beaches around Our fires
We sat in the dirt, on Our Land, that belongs to a big Round planet
We watched the Moon grow to a magnificent yellow Circle

That was Our Time

I have learnt two different ways now
I am thankful for this
That is part of my Life Circle

My heart is Round like a drum, ready to echo the music of my Family

But the Square within me still remains
The Square hole stops me in my entirety.

© Ali Cobby Eckermann

Grade One Primary

I’m sitting up the tree today
And I’m NOT getting down!
I don’t feel safe at school no more
Just ‘cos my skin is brown.

If I sit here overnight
Will I turn into a bird?
So I can fly away from here
And all the nasty words

‘Cos it’s no fun being different
Where do I fit in?
Some kids at school are nasty
Their words have such a sting.

You half caste dog, you coon, you boong,
You stinking bloody abo,
I don’t know what these words mean -
I know they stab me like an arrow.

I asked my teacher to explain
She just slapped me hard
Then when it was lunchtime
I was pushed over in the yard.

So now I’m sitting up the tree
I’ll hide from everyone.
I don’t understand this place -
I’m only in Grade One!

© Ali Cobby Eckermann


‘See you’ I said to the children
as I memorised
their Anangu faces
filled with laughter
and trust for family
innocent in their youth
and strong in culture

‘See you’ I said to the Elders
as the tears flow
in my heart
and I bend down
to shake their hands
and gain my strength
by skin

‘See you’ I said at Murputja
and the dust from my car
as I drove away
was like a ribbon
across the desert sand
tying me to that place

© Ali Cobby Eckermann

Intervention Pay Day

I love my wife     she right skin for me     pretty one my wife     young one     found her at the
next community over     across the hills      little bit  long way     not far

and from there she give me good kids     funny kids mine     we always laughing all together    
and that wife     she real good mother     make our wali real nice     flowers and grass patch
and chickens     I like staying home with my kids

and from there I build cubby house     yard for the horse     see I make them things from left
overs     from the dump     all the left overs from fixing the houses   and all the left overs I
build cubby house and chicken house

and in the house we teach the kids      don’t make mess     go to school  learn good so you can
work round here later     good job     good life   and the government will leave you alone

and from there tjamu and nana tell them the story      when the
government was worse  rations     government make all the rules    but don’t know culture   can’t sit in the sand   oh tjamu and nana     they got the best story     we always laughing us mob    

and from there night time when we all asleep     all together on the grass patch     dog and cat
and kids     my wife and me     them kids they ask really good questions  about the olden days     about today     them real ninti them kids     they gunna be right

and from there come intervention     John Howard     he make new rules     he never even
come to see us     how good we was doing already     Mal Brough     he come with the army    
we got real frightened true     thought he was gonna take the kids away     just like tjamu and
nana bin tell us

I run my kids in the sand hills     took my rifle up there and sat     but they was all just lying    
changing their words all the time     wanting meeting today  and meeting tomorrow     we was
getting sick of looking at them     so everyone put their eyes down     and some even shut their ears

and from there I didn’t care too much     just kept working     fixing the housing     being happy 
working hard     kids go to school     wife working hard too     didn’t care too much     we was
right     we always laughing us mob     all together

but then my wife she come home crying     says the money in quarantine but I didn’t know why
they do that     we was happy     not drinking and fighting     why they do that we ask the
council     to stop the drinking and protect the children     hey you know me ya bloody mongrel
I don’t drink     and I look after my kids   I bloody fight ya you say that again     hey  settle
down  we not saying that    Mal Brough saying that     don’t you watch the television     he
making the rules for all the mobs     every place Northern Territory     he real cheeky whitefella    
but he’s the boss  we gotta do it

and from there I tell my wife she gets paid half    half in hand   half in the store   her money in
the store now     half and half    me too     all us building mob     but I can’t buy tobacco     or
work boots     you only get the meat and bread     just like the mission
days     just like tjamu and nana tell us

and from there I went to the store to get meat for our supper    
but the store run out  only tin food left     so I asked for some bullets     I’ll go shoot my own meat  but sorry  they said     you gotta buy food     that night I slept hungry     and I slept by myself   thinking about it

and from there the government told us our job was finish     the government been give us the sack    
we couldn’t believe it     we been working CDEP for years     slow way park the truck
at the shed     just waiting  for something     for someone with tobacco

the other men’s reckon fuck this     drive to town for the grog     but I stayed with my kids    
started watching the television     trying to laugh     not to worry     just to be like yesterday

and from there  the politician man says  I give you real job   tells me to work again    
but different     only half time  sixteen hours but I couldn’t understand   it was the same job as
before     but more little     less pay     and my kids can’t understand     when they come home
from school     why I cant buy the lolly for them  like I used to before     I didn’t want to tell
them     I get less money for us now

and from there they say my wife earns too much money      I gonna miss out again     I’m
getting sick of it     don’t worry she says     I’ll look after you     but I know that’s not right way    
I’m getting shame     my brother     he shame too     he goes to town drinking     leaves his wife
behind     leaves his kids

and from there I drive round to see tjamu     he says his money in the store too     poor bloke    
he can’t even walk that far     and I don’t smile     I look at that old man   he lost his smile too  
but nana she cook the damper and tail     she trying to smile     she always like that

and from there when I get home     my wife gone to town with the sister in law     she gone
look for my brother     he might be stupid on the grog     he not used to it     she gotta find him    
might catch him with another woman     make him bleed     drag him home

and from there my wife     she come back     real quiet     tells me she went to casino them
others took her     taught her the machines     she lost all the money     she lost her laughing

and from there all the kids bin watching us     quiet way     not laughing around     so we all go
swimming down the creek     all the families there together     we happy again
them boys     we take them shooting     chasing the malu in the car     we real careful with the
gun     not gonna hurt my kids  no way

and from there my wife     she sorry     she back working hard     save the money     kids gonna
get new clothes     I gonna get my tobacco and them bullets     but she gone change again    
getting her pay     forgetting her family     forget yesterday     only thinking for town     with the
sister in law

and my wife     she got real smart now     drive for miles all dressed up     going to the casino with them other kungkas     for the Wednesday night draw

I ready told you I love my kids     I only got five     two pass away already     and I not
complaining bout  looking after my kids     no way     but when my wife gets home     if she spent
all the money     not gonna share with me and the kids

I might hit her     first time

wali – house
tjamu – grandfather
ninti – clever
malu – kangaroo
kungkas – women

Enigmatic blue on a weekly basis Andy Leleisi'uao
Enigmatic blue on a weekly basis - Andy Leleisi'uao
After 25 years of travelling around the Northern Territory Ali Cobby Eckermann resides in the 130 year old General Store at Koolunga SA.  Renovations and writing fill her days.  ‘Intervention Pay Day’ was the last poem she wrote in central Australia and won the Red Earth Poetry Award 2008.  Her first book of poetry ‘Little Bit Long Time’ will be published early 2009 by Aust Poetry Centre in partnership with Varuna New Poets.