Sacred Country

Peter Mitchell

At a Goolmangar acreage on Wijabul/Wia-bul Country, a camphor-laurel

sun-faces. The sky’s lion speaks light day & night. Year-by-slow-year,


day-by-slow-day, growth rings seasonal stories about nearby trees – some

long-gone, some still present, all a community of devotion.


The owner, a carpenter, treads revolutions around the tree’s base.

Head bent in deference, his feet make maps on Country


& intuits camphora secrets: a chair, stool & archway are companions

& have waited eons to reach out & meet the gathered peoples.


He picks a ground-near branch as thick as three forearms

held together & as long as a cathedral spire. His fingers


circle the axe’s handle as questions of angle, curve, slice

& weight are considered. He slants the tool; it glints


the morning air. A deep cut reveals honey-rich hardwood.

Mystery guides this shaper’s fingers. A hand-plane back-pares


roughness; nails sing the hammer’s down-swing.

Timber glows in stacks on the work bench. Inside each length,


the grain beats & flows more than the tree has ever known.

This resonance laces new patterns, new stories to tell,


legends that bind earthly matters to those not of this world.

The wood-carver arranges a steam box: a cooking-pot with a coat-


hanger across the inside. These wires elevate the wood as the steam

of change bends the lengths to archway curves. Later the beams,


plinth & other pieces are blocked together as one deified piece.

In the church, the woodworker & others install the archway,


hammer in the final cogs. A bow of light, deities, devotees

& devils enter this building on Sacred Country.


All this gathered wood resonates with the great old stories

too – every action, every utterance a benediction.


Dust motes like half-remembered sins float the yellow air.

Also a passage of departure, the deities & devotees leave,


but fallen angels, even with wings folded tight,

cannot. For now, they’ll pray in silence.


Will recollecting this knowledge from their ancient

ways activate reverence on Sacred Country?