Poems by Ali Cobby Eckermann

Por: Ali Cobby Eckermann

Dingo Eye

Serpentine Gorge is empty

shiny heatwave shimmer


frogs bury, dormant

wait for the next rain


birds have flown the billabong

I peer, into eyes of dingo


motionless, airless

we hold that stare


the first moment

before breath expires


before understanding

a blink of my eye


the dingo vanishes

in fading dusk


* Serpentine Gorge is a recognised Aboriginal site and waterhole in central Australia on land belonging to the Arrernte people*


© from ‘little bit long time’ 2009



A Dream

I saw you dance

that summer

before the war


your face painted

proudly celebrates

your hunting skills

women in awe whisper

behind their hands

of your strength

and bravery

the headdress you wear

reflects your rightful place

of leadership

and wisdom


this was before

the white man came

and murdered you


© from ‘little bit long time’ 2009




the pink

and grey

galah lies


on the bitumen


grey bitumen



under galah

pink sky


*galah – one of Australia’s more common birds*


© from ‘little bit long time’ 2009




There is no life

But Family


When I am young

I live with my Family


When I grow up

I leave my Family


When I am lonely

I miss my Family


When I am drunk

I reverse-charge (collect call) my Family


When I pass away

I unite my Family


There is no life

But Family


* Kumana – an Aboriginal bereavement name used by my Yankunytjatjara people*


© from ‘little bit long time’ 2009



How Does A Father Feel

How does a father feel

After his child is abused?


Does he want to kill the man

Who stole innocence forever?


Does he want to sit alone

And hide, pretend, whatever?


Does he want to hit his wife

When her crying goes on and on?


Does he want to go drinking

With his mates, even that one?


What does a father feel

After his child is abused?


Kill hide hit deny

Speak to the man, even that one!


© from ‘little bit long time’ 2009




‘See you’ I said to the children

as I memorised

their Anangu faces

filled with laughter

and trust in 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



* Anangu is a collective name for Aboriginal people in the north-west desert of South Australia*

* Murputja is a small location within the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands of South Australia*


© from ‘little bit long time’ 2009



I Tell You True

I cant stop drinking I tell you true

Since I watched my daughter perish

She burnt to death inside a car

I lost what I most cherish

I seen 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

That 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 ‘cos you don’t know

What sorrows we are nursing


© from ‘little bit long time’ 2009




among the rubble

I prop a roof

from battered rusty tin

sunlight sparkles through

old nail holes

as will stars

and droplets

of refreshing rain.

I weight every stone

in my gaze

in my hands

I sweep

earthen floor

remove its purities

from its skin

as it has done mine.

I gaze at

clouded glass

no longer.


© from ‘little bit long time’ 2009




Every grain of sand in this

Big red country

Is a pore on the skin

Of my Family


Every feather on the ground in this

Spinifex country

Is a spiritual message

From my Ancestors


Every wildflower that blooms in this

Desert of red

Is a signpost of hope

For my People


© from ‘little bit long time’ 2009



Yankunytjatjara Love Poems



I walk to the north

I walk to the south

Where are you my Warrior?


I sit in the desert

I sit by the ocean

Where are you my Warrior?


I dance with the trees

I dance to the rocks

Where are you my Warrior?


I wait with the birds

I wait with the animals

Where are you my Warrior?


Heaven is everywhere

Where are you?



I will show you a field

of zebra finch dreaming

in the shadow of the rock ochre

when the soft blanket of language

hums kindship and campfires

flavour windswept hair


little girls stack twigs on embers

under grandfathers skin of painted love

the dance of emu feathers

will sweep the red earth with your smile


do not look at me in daylight

that gift comes in the night

tomorrow I will show my mother

your marriage proposal in my smile



in the cave she rolls large rocks

for the table, for the wildflowers

they pick for each other


she carries dishes of water

filled with river sand to soften

the hard rock floor


she makes shelves from braided vines

to hold the many feathers given

by the message birds


when he sleeps she polishes

his weapons with goanna fat

till they glisten in fire light


he tells the story of the notches

on his spear, the story of the maps

on his woomera (shield)


their eyes fill with spot fires lit on his return

the other women laugh ‘get over yourself’

they laugh ‘he’s not that good!’


she smiles, she knows him

in the night



there is love in the wind by the hanging rock

down the river by the ancient tree

love in kangaroo lizard and emu

love when Spirits speak no human voice

at the sacred sites eyes unblemished

watch wedge-tail eagle soar over hidden water

find the love and happiness of culture


© Ali Cobby Eckermann



Inside My Mother

my mothers screams as I touch her hair

attempting to brush away the coarseness with my hands

to entwine twigs filled with leaves into her locks

a tiara of green to soften her face


and our tears dry now my mother is frailing

she talks only to those who have gone before

no longer seeing my love, no longer needing

and the wailing bursts from our mouths

as she sinks to the ground, her mother the earth


and my mother the dying

throws sand in her face, tasting the grit

in her mouth and wailing louder throws herself

forward, pushing her breasts in the softness

of the earth her mother


and my mother the dying

crawls down into that final embrace

her conversation incoherent now

as if like a child she is practicing words

for the lifetime to come


and the syllables loud and guttural spill

over the sand her mother the earth

and I walk away leaving her there

in that cradle, safely nestled in the roots

of that tree, safe in her country

our solace, her grave


© from Inside My Mother 2016



A Handful Of Weeds

a woman lays down in the grass

squints one eye against the sky

changing grass stalks to towers of gold


her grandson lays beside her

telling stories of kangaroos and birds

he imitates their movements

in that old sacred dance


a blue-tongue lizard lumbers past

it’s tongue protrudes from pinkness

it’s mouth surreal and hissing


the boy is surreal in his love of her

the patter of his feet is her pulse

his skin shines with his trust of her


at dusk headlights force a crusade

in the moment before discovery

he puts a handful of weeds on her grave


© from Inside My Mother 2016

Última actualización: 15/07/2019