I met them briefly in the Territory,
one in Darwin’s city mall,
and the other on the border
with Arnhem Land.
One asked me for four dollars for lunch,
and I, with my white guilt, obliged,
and he, with polite distain,
trotted off to god knows where.
The other took me along the Alligator River
and spoke about his home,
with white teeth grinning,
and a joker he was, laughing not
at me or him but at the innocence
of his privileged life.
His mob from Arnhem he saw
at the crossing and he smiled and waved
and said that they were his family,
his people, that lived among all the mobs
and families spread like all the
languages across this vast place,
remote, yet close.
I said, “Enjoy your lunch!” to the
man with the white beard in Darwin,
and he looked at me without a smile,
only with dark eyes that peered around at
nothing at all, then at the two coins
I placed in his hand.
I saw him later in Mitchell Street,
sitting alone with hand outstretched
and a simple beggar’s cry,
and he never looked at me;
he had no reason to remember.
And the man in the boat on the Alligator,
drew applause at the end of the cruise,
for his commentary and his dreaming stories
and his love for the river and his land,
and he waved goodbye,
with his white teeth grinning.