Bones lay buried forty fathoms deep,
oh, if only the turquoise ocean can speak!
The wizard wind carries lonesome melodies
echoing memories of the past hundred years —
of schooners, luggers, pearl shells,
and waves of settlers called Manilamen,
washed ashore in the Torres Straits and Broome,
their descendants and offsprings
of Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
and new arrivals on their trail
sing songs that graft new tunes into old,
the ancient song lines, their tracks on rocks and soils
of mixed identities fused,
the red grainy soil stirs up old memories
that honour forebears who dived
into the depths of the continent’s soul
with black women who took the lead,
embracing mixed traditions,
and their gaze never quite turned away
from their roots, the distant islands of a dreamtime
from where once their ancestors sailed away.
Photo (pearling lugger): Tom McDonough, c1930, Broome; Peta Stephenson (2007) The Outsiders Within: Telling Australia’s Indigenous-Asian Story.