These paintings will not leave Australia,
for they are on the rock face. There are hands,
there are stick figures, there is abstract art.
Brown, yellow, white, and red – these are some colours
that you might see. But you will be hard put
to speak to those who painted them, for they
are from the Dreamtime. That is when the laws
and stories were laid down. Here is a woman
giving birth; here is a kangaroo;
and underneath them, rock. This is the land
that people walk on. Where rock meets the air
is where the paintings are, and that is where
a man might live his life. It’s been a long
time since men reached this continent – a hot
dry place, good for preserving art – a place
the sky bears down upon the soil, and what
men do is lost in silence. Put a hand
to the rock face; the rock will keep it there.
John Claiborne Isbell
John Claiborne Isbell teaches French and German at The University of Texas - Rio Grande Valley, after twenty years in Europe and more years back in the US. He published a first book of poems, Allegro, in 2018.
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