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Thursday, 28 June 2012

Arnhem Land (Northern Territories) Rock Art

Imagine a myth
a modern myth
invented by me:
a beast, part
dragon and part bird...
steps from some fable
into a wasteland
where it dies.
The  landscape is
too high, too wild
for access by the modern
man - except proud
chopperman -
and this all fifty
thousand years ago.

The beast decays.
Flesh ossifies
bone petrifies
flesh to bone
and bone to rock
the rock a shelter
ancient man discovers
(how?) calls home.

He - Aborigine -
is spirit energy personified.
Covers walls and ceilings
with images of his true home -
our hidden genesis.

Imagine now
you find this shelter
and walk in. Around you
images begin to sing
each in its native tongue.
Here is no bare rock,
but all is marked with spirit forms
as if the fabled beast
before it died
was given a full body
interior tattoo. From which -
between the edges of the songs -
thoughts, feelings, inner images arise
and take control
of modern man
as easily as old.

Walk through
this archive of your spirit ancestors
for somewhere here
an image of your spirit stirs -
or maybe one your spirit made.
When you encounter it
hang it on the small hook
at the far back of your mind.
It is your satnav for the songlines
you must walk. They will
embrace the image fervently.

Now from the center of each song
a tear-out sheet. The souvenir.
Totemic ancestors asleep
beneath  a dark flat earth
burst through convulsively.
Half human and half plant,
they travelled everywhere,
created landscapes.
Mountains, rivers, waterholes
wallaby and kangaroo
eagle, ant and snake.

We do not own the land,
the artwork sings,
the land owns us.
Land gives us culture, soul, identity.
There are no boundaries, but everywhere
the spirits move, connect all life to all.
The image: from ABC News.
Image and poem refer to recently discovered Aboriginal Rock Art which predates by several thousand years anything known before.


Elisabeth said...

This is truly beautiful, Dave, and so resonant for me, about this land to which we lay claim, but in the aboriginal sense this land owns us.

Jenny Woolf said...

Isn't it extraordinary that images created so long ago can connect with us. Your poem resonates with this sense of wonder.

Brian Miller said...

we dont own the land....true that there in the end...though we act like we do...wisdom has been around for ages, yet sometimes we forget....

A Cuban In London said...

It's amazing how both the text and the images unfold side to side. The poem flows, but it also rises in parts. This is one of those peaks:

"When you encounter it
hang it on the small hook
at the far back of your mind."

Many thanks. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Greetings from London.

kaykuala said...

Beautiful take, Dave! A fine tribute to Aborigine Art. We can never imagine just how some unknown,unsung and untrained being could come with a masterpiece so unique and timeless! There must still be some others waiting to be discovered. Thanks for sharing!


Daydreamertoo said...

This is a fabulous read Dave. I love anything that make me 'think' and this is one of those writes that does exactly that. No, we don't own the land and we ought to be giving back to it what we take out. Living hand in hand with it, instead we keep on plundering it for every resource there is and give nothing back but our toxic waste. Oh, how the true ancients were so much wiser than modern mas is in so many ways. I hope you shared this at some prompt or other Needs to be read by many.
Truly fabulous read Dave!

Anonymous said...

Beautiful poem. This rock art - whether Aboriginal or in Spain or France or India - speaks to me too. So amazingly well-crafted and beautiful. There's a new Herzog film - haven't seen but sounds amazing- maybe you have heard of it or seen it, about newly discovered caves. k.

Mary said...

A beautiful, thought-provoking write, Dave!

MianTariq said...

Dave! you are amazingly good in expressing anything through your beautiful poem setting.
It's fabulous indeed!

Dave King said...

Thank you so much, a very encouraging response.

Thanks Jenny, and yes, I do agree with you: it is extraordinary.

A very vakid point. It is true that the ancient wisdoms are so often overlooked - or worse still, belittled.

A Cuban in London
Thanks for picking out those lines, I wondered how they would be received.

True, and when you remember how far back in time we're talking. They've found edge ground axes on the site as well. It seems that, contrary to former thinking, they were the most advanced peoples of their time.

Thank you so much for this. I do think it is something that cannot be said too often.

I've heard of the Herzog film, but not seen it, alas. Must see if I can't do something about that! Thanks for the kind words.

Thank you so much for this.

Thank you. Really great to have remarks like this!