get out of here someone yells
before the paddy wagons cruise past
a threat of death on rubber tyres
behind garbage bins we gather
hysterical at this insane game
smashing bottles over our heads
in the restaurant you tip your glass
savour food that you did not grow
pay with money you do not merit
once all people sat and ate together
every person sated in understanding
a mutual love the cultural lore
paddy wagons patrol their threats
behind the bins we are starving
we watch kindness become extinct


© Ali Cobby Eckermann





once we made love in the coolness
under the wilga trees* where wrens* flit
making love beside us
now the trees are dying
and a hot wind exposes us
readying us for our demise


* a native tree (geijera parviflora)
* superb fairy wren (malurus cyaneus)

© Ali Cobby Eckermann





attracted to the neon light of an auction house
they stand in single file, the natives
selling their artefacts for food
one woman weeps clutching a coolamon
etched with kangaroos and sturt desert pea
her grandmother carved from a red river gum
a girl pulls gemstones from her pockets
fossilised birds of ruby red garnets
containing the songs of the old
a young man holds a bundle of spears
crafted by his grandfather before the missionaries
taught him the economy of rifles
a boy offers a branch from the bough shelter
under which his mothers were born
when his family was housed in happiness
another offers a stringless guitar
his uncle had used to write the music
for an award-winning song
an old man with long grey beard
grips music boomerangs in each hand
knowing their silence will be forever
there is little reparation for food
there is no apology for the past
there is no apology for the past


* a traditional large wooden dish
* the floral emblem of South Australia, also known as ‘kangaroo eye’ by desert people
* eucalyptus camaldulensis 

© Ali Cobby Eckermann





Respect to the GunaiKurnai

it’s wrong to kill an eagle the old man said
sitting in the dark staring up at the sky
the embers of the campfire away with the wind
that badness gets stuck inside wrong ways
and I thought about that statement for a while
about how self-justification can be a crime
about how every farm is a fiefdom
about how every paddock diverts the natural
about how the need for capital can vile a moral mind
that badness gets stuck inside wrong ways
and we see it now in the newspapers
and we feel it now in the absence in the sky
it’s wrong to kill an eagle the old man said
staring up at the sky through his tears
orbs of spirit shining where eagles once flew
we sit outside the courthouse to sing our songs
we sing for the justice that is unjustifiable
we cry when the verdict is given
we sit outside the jailhouse to sing our songs
we sing for the massacres that litter our lands
we sit crying with feathers in our hair


Note: A New Zealand man has been jailed for 14 days and fined $2,500 for poisoning 406 wedge-tailed eagles at three remote properties in Victoria’s east in Australia. It’s the first time in Victorian history a person has been jailed for wildlife destruction. The farm worker said he poisoned the birds under the direction of his employer. Farm worker Murray James Silvester, 59, pleaded guilty to killing the protected birds at Tubbut in east Gippsland between October 2016 and April 2018. The court was told the maximum penalty for killing so many eagles was more than $350,000 or six months jail.

© Ali Cobby Eckermann





he arrives unseen, from nowhere
like a bird of prey, a sudden joy, curiosity
to the cherry-wood box he carries in his hands

together we celebrate his entry 
as we have been taught politeness
the best manners, an ability to wait for miracles

he teaches us a song; we sing
as he releases the hand-made box
covered by the fingerprints from many ochre hands

it is a box of wind songs
the sky rejoicing with tears and laughter
everywhere birds gather flapping air under their wings

the air under an owls wing is silent
noiseless with another resonance of air
listen for the pauses, the warnings, the diminishing

it arrives unseen, from nowhere
like the first day of school, an insult
the shock of being taunted for the colour of your skin


© Ali Cobby Eckermann

Ali Cobby Eckermann reads 'The Extinction of Kindness'

Ali Cobby Eckermann reads 'The Extinction of Us'

Ali Cobby Eckermann reads 'The Abyss of an Apology in Australia'

Ali Cobby Eckermann reads 'It's Just So Wrong'

Ali Cobby Eckermann reads 'Wind Song Lament'