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Looking for Arabanoo

Midway between the Spit Bridge and Manly
on a sandstone overhang jutting like a rock shelf
in the heights of Balgowlah, two benches
look out between North and South Head across
the Pacific blue towards Aotearoa.
 
A scenic walk around the arc of the coastline
Sydneysiders and tourists trek to the high
point at Dobroyd Head – a stunning vista
two hundred and seventy degrees of ocean –
Arabanoo Lookout they call it – ideal spot
to watch migrations of humpback whales.
A track bearing your name snakes off to a
higher peak. I follow this trail searching
for you – Arabanoo.
 
Out here rocky outcrops stab the skies
the raw, salty smell of the sea stings my nostrils.
Below me, the bones of your loved ones lie hidden
under the colonial layers of Kayeemy in the cemetery
of Sydney, underneath the hype of Australiana’s
harbour side real estate every crevice, every cove on
every beach – a tomb where black bodies have
turned to dust.
 
A sign on the headland claims you – 
 first Aboriginal man to live among Europeans.
Here begins your public life – caught in
the claws of the colonizing spider – spun
into webs of words – bound and trapped in the
entangled net of history’s timeless, voiceless others.
Your silence screams out.
 
Where are you in these words that scratch
and claw at the surface of the life you once had?
Sydney’s short history clings to this cove
like the marooned crew of a sinking ship.
Their crudely cobbled stories spin
the gossip of history that nails every black life
to the page. And you – first to be crucified.
 
Down on the beach crowds come and go
waves rise and break – roll in roll out
in endless rhythm whitefellas walk over your story.
I listen for your voice above the eternal pulse
of the ocean below.

Go to Jeanine Leane's profile to read more poems