Venie Environmental Poetry Prize

Saving Angelthe by Meg Mooney

I pick my way
around dry grass, cow pats, prickles
it’s hot and this is not pretty country

we pass a huge coolabah
sprays of new leaves
lit like emerald glass

this tree and my friend remember
when people walked this country
held landmarks like this in their minds

nearby she finds a bush banana vine
curling around a corkwood –
she sees every bushfood highlighted in neon

near a dry creek winding among river gums
my friend searches the buffel grass weed
finds a low bush full of starry white flowers

angelthe used to grow everywhere
on floodout country she says
her family often collected them –

I see old ladies, young women, children
with armfuls of thin leafy stems
strung with little beaks of green fruit

they’d wind the stems into bundles
cook them in the ashes
eat them warm and crunchy

now we only find one angelthe
this ‘native pear’ disappeared early
cattle like it too

but my friend still looks for it
in swampy coolabah country
‘there’s a young one!’ she says now

poking around at the edge of the bush
she waters the seedling with her drink bottle
digs with her hands in the damp soil

places the plant in a plastic bag –
she’s come prepared –
presents all this to me

I feel like I’ve been given
part of a lost world
‘put it in your vegetable garden’ she says

angelthe grew safe
among the silverbeet for a while
then died

but my friend had collected seeds
grown some plants
they thrive in a pot in the shade

long twining stems from the past

Note: This poem is based on one of my trips out bush with Eastern Arrernte elder
Veronica Perrurle Dobson. She has read the poem and given permission for it to be
published.

 

You can hear Meg reading her poem here:

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