Poems for a Better World: Terra Australis Incognita

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and those black fellas believed these white fellas spirits of their ancestors (pale time travellers of everywhen) and those black fellas received venereal, opium, rum and pox and they returned witchetty grubs, honey ants and fruit bats and the white fellas killed no one with their guns because the new land was called terra nullius (land belonging to no one) and it was fair to say that these white fellas did not include themselves nor irony in their census taking and the captain struck the collarbone of the elder (he that had helped himself to the white fellas shovel) and the aborigine elder embraced the captain and spread his arm to indicate everything he could see and the captain surrendered his shovel of wrought iron just as black fellas shared their axes of polished greenstone and so it was with ropes and stakes and sacred land; these white fellas pushed the black fellas further from the sea, scattered burial totems of coral, red basket and seagull feather and there was bile and spleen between the groups and dead black fellas (females and young, too) and the aborigine elder pushed the collarbone of the captain and the captain knew it was wrong to survey and deed what wasn’t theirs and he was ashamed and he agreed that his voice was no greater than the magpie or the blue winged kookaburra and he negotiated to settle the interior space of terra nullius (that ground that was less hospitable like them) and handcuffs and leg irons fell from the poors and politicals and these made a mountain of metal where everyone was free to piss and the captain cast off his blue jacket and white waistcoat and humbled himself to learn yellomundi (or storyteller) and butbut (or heart) and he was granted initiation by they that met and decided he was ten years old and he was painted with red clay and fat of the wallroo and wombat and he received cuts to his chest arms shoulders and buttocks and sand in each produced voluminous scars and the penis of this white fella was split with a stone knife and a front tooth was knocked out to mark him as community and he danced the tree lion climbing ripping and pulling but laying in peace with brother and sister alike and he sang the songlines that trek creation and he blew didjerry didjerry through termite eucalyptus, pressed his lips to beeswax and shook out grins and guffaws and the black fellas did not call him apostle but he returned his blind eye seeing to the white sails of sirius of the orion and he stayed the cannons and six-pounder guns and his voice was dreamtime and ancestral beings and why it is that men and women walk upright and those that saw and heard were ashamed and they pushed the collarbone one of the other and they agreed against greed to call this place “must be there somewhere land” and it remains so to this day

About Dean Gessie

Dean Gessie is a renowned author and poet who has won or placed in more than 100 international literary competitions. Among other honours, Dean won the Angelo Natoli Short Story Award in Australia, the Half and One Literary Contest in India, the Enizagam Poetry Contest in California, the Ageless Authors Poetry Contest in Texas, the Wordsmiths Literary Competition in England, the Frank O’Hara Poetry Prize in Massachusetts, the Editors’ Prize from the Spoon River Poetry Review in Illinois and the fiction prize at the Eden Mills Writers Festival in Canada. Dean was also published in the 35th World Poetry Prize Anthology in Italy and he was included in The 64 Best Poets of 2018 and 2019 by Black Mountain Press in North Carolina. Dean’s short story collection – called Anthropocene – won an Eyelands Book Award in Greece and the Uncollected Press Prize in Maryland. 

Terra Australis Incognita was chosen as the winner of the 2021 UN-aligned poetry competition. Watch UN-aligned’s exclusive interview with Dean Gessie.

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