Dirty Red

Angela Szczotko

When Earth’s unrest ceased
twenty times a thousand thousand years ago
her great south land stirred, split and spread,
covered herself in lava spill, lay soiled     still
breathing deeply      listening —
Then spirit warriors woke from dreaming Bundjalung,
did battle on Country
and the land bled red.
Red dirt still lives in russet scars
etched in this volcanic cauldron. Its plug warns mariners,
banks northern rivers and remembers a big scrub thick with future.
Basalt ranges the border where old growth stands
reserved in remnants, it caps our weathered hills,
looks first sun in the face, shoulders the sky and backs the sea.
Red dirt settled selectors
when cedar getters cut red gold from ancient forests
and cattle farmers pioneered their presence in the storied past.
Now, in this rainbow region
creatives drop in, dig the culture,
belong to red by going green.
Tree changers retreat to hinterland towns,
locals find balance in hidden valleys
where trees flame summer and water falls where live poets live.
Muscled deep within this vital landscape
beats our dirty red heart. It’s red, pumps iron
in soil that’s twenty million years old.
Wollumbin, big fellow mountain,
cloud catcher, shields this sacred place
where purple light shifts and rocks change shape.
This painted landscape where the earth is red
was, still is Widjabul land. We all belong here.
Without this place there’d be no us.
It keeps us.
Always will be
scrubbed place where red dirt lives.