Totem Talk

Working With The Animal Totems


I always call big old trees with spreading arms Grandmother.... and big old tall ones Grandfather... silly me, but it really stems from a day, over 40 years ago now, when I sat under a tree with an

indigenous girl, whose name has faded from memory ; she told me stories of her

people, Dreamtime Stories handed down from generation to generation. I may have

forgotten her name but I shall never forget her.

I fished for barramundi and ate witchedy grubs with her

and watched the slow moving river grumble

along past our feet...




Conversations Under Grandmother Tree


‘Neath Grandmother Tree






forty year old memories drift

floating into present day






two girls bond in play

fishing for barramundi

by a slow moving river

that grumbled past their feet…

… searching under thick bark

witchedy grubs to eat…



a tale of ebony and ivory

long before the song was sung

two girls playing in the bush

their souls were as one…


teaching each other of two worlds

the worlds of me and she

sitting ‘neath

the cooling shade

of old Grandmother tree…






Conversations Under Grandmother Tree





the day was hot & humid

summer storms

building in layers

of heavy cloud

pregnant with unfallen rain…


rain today

I asked

wiping sweat

from my nut-brown face…


nope, ‘morrow maybe

she replied

her yawn exposing

teeth of purest white

in a face as black as night

you not like dem

white girls in town

she said

dem ones read Dolly

at milk-bar

and paint their nails

and giggle like sick



you not like them

aborigine girls in town

I grinned

they copy white girls

and giggle at the jackaroos

and flutter eyes like

sick cow…


our laughter tumbled

up into the branches

of Grandmother Tree

who rustled her leaves

at our gossip

with good-natured



you think any quandong

are ripe

I asked


nope, we ete ‘em all


she shook her head

you still got much

to learn


she laughed…


we both laughed then

laughed out loud like

healthy kookaburra

SWIM! we screeched

chasing each other

into the slow moving

water of the River….






jackaroos - Male trainee worker on a cattle or sheep station



quandong- Australian tree with edible flesh and edible nutlike seed




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