Red-tailed black cockatoo (Ngoolyark)
The red-tailed black cockatoos call
from bleeding limbs of the blooming Marri.
Chet, chet, chet, chet
They peck the honkey nuts. Hard fruit
falls to the boort and bilara of the djarlma floor.
Ngoolyark cries, pierces the mango and pink
skies with the sound of home – summons us still overseas.
Waa waa, waa waa
they are south west: breast of streams milked
to mother duct – Goorbiliyup – a river in Bibbulmun country.
Can you sing us back in time? To when red-tailed black
cockatoos called from bleeding limbs of the blooming Marri.
Noongar (also spelt Noongah, Nyungar, Nyoongar, Nyoongah, Nyungah, Nyugah) are the indigenous people of the south west of Australia. In Noongar language, the south west is Bibbulmun country meaning ‘place of plenty’. From an aerial perspective the region looks like a breast and the syllable “bib” means breast – a symbol of nourishment named for the abundance of tributaries that feed into Gorbilliyup, commonly known as the Blackwood River. Kaarak: black cockatoo; honkey nuts: West Australian term for “gumnut” – the woody nut or seed pod of the gum tree; boort: bark; bilara: dead leaves; djarlma: forest; Ngoolyark: red-tailedblack cockatoo. Currently all types of Kaarak are on the endangered species list.
Emily Barker is an award-winning singer-songwriter, best known as the writer and performer of the theme to the BBC’s hugely successful crime drama Wallander starring Kenneth Branagh. As well as composing for film and television, she has released numerous critically-acclaimed albums and tours internationally. Originally from Bridgetown, Western Australia, now residing in Stroud, UK, she has turned her hand to poetry. Her work has been published in Quadrant, 192 Magazine, Stylus, Hecate Journal and Dreich magazine.