Flashes of Essence



Order of poems on cassette (audio link in preparation):

Side One:

Where nomads tread
First contacts
The Law
Nooni’s Bunyip Story
Baal Belbora
Gularwundul’s Wish
Aboriginal Query
Every Dreamer
New True Anthem

Side Two:

Child’s Dreaming
Won’t You Dad
Night Flight
Everlasting Transience
Think: Massacres
Black Woman
In Memoriam: Pearl Gibbs
When children march


I am the tree
the lean hard hungry land
the crow and eagle
sun and moon and sea
I am the sacred clay
which forms the base
the grasses vines and man
I am all things created
I am you and
you are nothing
but through me the tree
you are
and nothing comes to me
except through that one living gateway
to be free
and you are nothing yet
for all creation
earth and God and man
is nothing
until they fuse
and become a total sum of something
together fuse to consciousness of all
and every sacred part aware
in true affinity


If all the lovely melodies
in all the world were ever sung
and all the masters' masterpieces
in the greatest galleries ever hung
and all the statues David and
the poems and the works of man
were to burn bright for deaths delight
throughout our land
a little child looked up and smiled
and beamed with pride and love and joy
and said: `You won't let them drop that bomb
on me Daddy. You'll stop them, won't you Daddy?'
His question mark
was like an arc all ringed around
with burning flame
I said in loving confidence:
`We'll stop them, child'
but in my heart is fear and burning shame
I actually PAY the Man
to make the BOMB
I pay him Tax to sing
his song of hate
I keep the war-dog on his chain
I help to feel and feed his hate
I PAY THE MAN to make the bomb
to hold the world and my child in fear
I close my heart to human beings
as if afraid
when love draws near
It's ME who's wrong
it's ME who'll burn the song
it's ME who'll burn the lovely melody
because I fear other humans near
who may somehow flood human love to me
the flame will burn and melt the eyes
of my children as they turn
to me and say with love for me
and faith today:
`You will stop them from dropping the bomb on me
won't you Dad?'


A sun scorched sea
that aeons ago
was home of leviathans
burnt sand
where nomads tread
unkist by soothing rain
or snow
incarnadined by desert glow
the profound awe-filled
spaces teach
the nobler truths
that minds can reach
past sombre silenced gold.


Children marching
holding flags
slogans written on their rags
bright with hope
their chants boom forth
clamoring justice
children's wrath
falls like flights of angry birds
upon the seats of power
onto the tyrant's crown
and bloom like some proud
and virile thing
demanding of that gross
that knavish king
come to justice
Children marching
holding flags
slogans written on their rags
bright with hope
their chants boom forth
clamoring justice
children's wrath
bloom and flower
a strong and proud and virile thing
waves of love pervade their being
clearer, louder we are hearing
what they're chanting
what they're saying
we are legends
we shall know
shall hear shall see
shall feel shall bend
shall break shall fall
shall reap the crops we sow
for legends win
legends always win
and legends never die


Another little history passed
and cast her bones upon the mound
of other bones all cast about
who cast their pearls upon the wind
where winds' soft fingers now caress
to tinkle strange Aeolian songs
of justice echoing her truth
her hopes her now defeated breath
like warriors torn upon the fields
of battle crawling home.


`My aunt, my father we all lived in that
old humpy by the river.
Each night at sundown 'They' the funny fellas would come
walkin' so the women locked the doors and pulled the
wood things over the windows.
Every night they did this thing and no one could go out
until the morning came again.
One night, Moodgee, we looked out the cracks in the wall
and seen them. Jumping quick as wallaby when the
spear just nicks him. Behind the trees they were.
We went to bed. All of us. In my aunty's bed we were. Hot
it was. Hot.'
He puffed the pipe. His eyes slipped furtively past mine
and probed hesitantly into the dark.
His body quivered closer to the fire.
`Hot. Hot night. Forgot the water. Forgot, my old aunt did,
and the kids started cryin'.
Three big sisters they were. The biggest ones were.
They got the rifles. My father, him, he got the shotgun. Aunty,
old aunt carried the lantern. Walked down to the river,
they did.
`The biggest girl, she knew someone was watching her. She
stood straight. Lookin' she was. Eyes were there and
watchin', funny fella eyes.
Her sisters called, "Get the water, quick, Nulina!"
Big one she was. Strong. Bent down, dipped the bucket in.
Eyes. Big red eyes they was. In the water there. Bit it did.
Bit her arm. <~>
She cooeed. Hit the eyes with the bucket. Father used a shotgun.
She was strong, she was. Pulled away. Half her arm torn out.
Clean. Cut clean like a boomerang cut.
Next day, father, aunt went to the river. No tracks. Nothing.
Only a big red and black feather covered with blood of
`Father, soon he got wrinkled up. All about his face. His
legs like the blue crane. He died. All screwed up he was.
When aunt went to put flowers on his grave, She found a big red and black feather.
No bird with feather like that in our country.
`Nulina, she ran away with Nurran. Had a baby. Foot like a
duck it was and its head like a big paddy-melon. All
wrinkled up, it was. Black. Legs like a blue crane. No meat.
`Nulina, she came back one day. Sun in the middle of the sky.
She walked down into the river and didn't come up again.
We looked, but we couldn't find no more red and black feathers.'


I know you're wrong when you claim you're right
And your truth is black when you claim it white
Still, you believe and I know, I know
That we all must tend the land we hoe
and live to the dreams we dream
And we all must rise to the beck'ning sun
That guides us all on the race we run
And you believe, I know I know
That your truth is true <196> yet a coal-black snow
Is as white as the truth you claim.
Yet you believe and you hold the right
To believe a lie is truth, is light
Is a Beckoning Star in Abysmal night
And as true as a man is true.
I know you're right when you claim I'm wrong
That I'm out of tune with your own sad song
For you believe and to me it seems
That your feet of clay keep your heart from dreams
And away from a Nobler truth.
I know, I know that the plant you grow
Is a bitter tree that the wise men know
Bears a fruit that is bitter-sweet
And I believe <196> as I see you grieve
That the light was dimm'd since Adam, Eve
Sprang from the basest clay I know
That your feet are clay and we all must sow
The crop that we each must reap
Yet you believe and you can't be wrong
For each man's truth is another's wrong
And we each must walk that path alone
To reach the deepest depths; a throne
Of truth till a truer comes
And I know, I know that we slowly grow
The times will come and the times will go
And we will shed the shrouds of `sin'
That man-made-brass-bound keeps us in
A closet <196> away from truth
Yet you believe, and I know, I know
That man must crawl before he grows
And man must leap and often fall
Yet Aeons pass and still you crawl
Still you believe and I know; I grieve
I know.


The white swans had landed so huge was their seeming
as swiftly they skimmed o'er the calm glassy sea
as I am Karndooli I stood there dumbfounded
for surely I dreaming roamed lands of Ba'aime.

Oh Ba'aime Great Spirit land heavens creator
these they are teeming with strangely clad gods
they call in strange tongues and their bearded face gleaming
and clasped in their hands are strange spears or wood rods.

They all come to greet me - a small wooden vessel
it bears them so swiftly across the calm sea
the swans are NOT swans - oh strange is the creaming
of white crested waves and the great wings flap free.

They spread o'er the beach land their hands raised in greeting
and presents they'll give me to pass o'er my land
the roar of their short spears - smoke from it anointing
is tainting my skies as my blood flows through sand.


Within our hands
caress enfold as dreamings flow
to love and teach and guide
the soul and heart
in all the sacred things
that we hold dear
and wisdom in our heritage impart.


Despite what Dorothea has said
about the sun scorched land
you've never really loved her
nor sought to make her grand
you pollute all the rivers
and litter every road
your barbaric graffiti
cuts scars where tall trees grow
the beaches and the mountains
are covered with your shame
injustice rules supremely despite your claims to fame
the mud polluted rivers
are fenced off from the gaze
of travellers and the thirsty
for foreign hooves to graze
a tyranny now rules your soul
to your own image blind
a callousness and uncouth ways
now hallmarks of your kind
Australia oh Australia
you could stand proud and free
we weep in bitter anguish
at your hate and tyranny
the scarred black bodies writhing
humanity locked in chains
land theft and racial murder
you boast on of your gains
in woodchip and uranium
the anguished death you spread
will leave the children of the land
a heritage that's dead
Australia oh Australia
you could stand tall and free
we weep in bitter anguish
at your hate and tyranny.


Isn't it beautiful
homes twinkle below
out on the horizon
ships quietly glow
isn't it wonderful
being alive
here in the clouds
man filled with his drive
has flown to such heights
that it surely please God
but down on the ground still
you feel the beast plod
surely we marvel
these things we attain
technologically speaking
would make us refrain
from the chasms and passions
rampant down there -
from the base and the coarse
and our ego's sharp snare
yet we grow and there's growth
to'ard the God-state we seek
in time terms infinitesimal
our steps to that peak
the mad and the crazy
religious or sane
on God's endless treadmill
walk on - on again
we grind on quite mindless
and blinded it seems a series of shadows
and staccato dreams
with flashes of essence
of spirit a flood
we evolve and
emerge from our
substance - our mud
to wallow like buffalo
feet bogged in the flood
our hearts brimmed with anger
our eyes filled with blood
computers all programmed
to save effort, breath
push-button warfare
and opting for death

Isn't it wonderful
lights twinkle below
technologically speaking
the world sure will glow.



Kevin Gilbert is an award winning poet and author whose works are represented nationally as resource material in literature, drama and Aboriginal Studies in secondary and tertiary institutions. In this collection of poems is heard the universal voice of spirituality, love and time, which speaks to all of us.

His first book Because a White Man'll Never Do It, published by Angus and Robertson in 1973, won critical: acclaim as the first major political work by an Aboriginal. Kevin Gilbert is recognised as the first Aboriginal playwright with his play The Cherry Pickers, which was written in 1968, first performed in 1971 and published in 1988 by Burrambinga Books. Living Black, a complete oral history, was published by Penguin Books in 1977 and won the Book Council Award in the following year. Next came People Are Legends, a collection of his poetry, published by University of Queensland Press in 1979. In 1988, Kevin Gilbert edited and participated in the first major anthology of Aboriginal poetry called Inside Black Australia, which included 44 poets from across Australia and was published by Penguin Books . For this work, he was given the Human Rights Award for Literature but he refused to accept on the principle that Human Rights have not yet been achieved by Aboriginal People in Australia. "Tree" and "Won't You Dad?" which are recorded on this cassette, were published in the anthology