Brenda Saunders is a Sydney poet of Aboriginal and British descent. She has published three collections of poetry, her most recent, The Sound of Red (Ginninderra Press, 2013). Her work has also featured in anthologies and journals and was included in Best Australian Poems 2013 (Black Inc.) In 2013 she was awarded a Resident Fellowship to CAMAC Arts Centre in France where she worked translating into her poetry into French.
He’s suddenly there on a platform at Central.
With a voice like a teacher, he bends to ask.
Where are you going today, my dear?
What is he saying? He’s leaning too close
long teeth, chin, a grey fedora.
I think of red-riding hood, ‘stranger danger’.
Spittle gathers at the edge of his mouth
I say nothing, wondering will he bite?
I’m taking the train to Grandma’s I say.
But we’re not in the woods and I don’t have
a basket, so I show my schoolbag, just in case.
And who are these ladies? he cries even louder,
Watching my Aunties, dark hands holding mine.
He’s eyeing our faces, from one to the other
Waiting in silence, to find an answer.
Everything’s still, but they don’t say a word.
Their eyes look down to the dusty ground.
Searching for something they fear they’ve lost.
As he turns away, he yells to the crowd.
Never can tell with these Abos today,
mixing the blood will lead to disaster.
I don’t understand, but I hear the threat, feel
the pain in familiar faces. I look around
reading the signs. Anxious to find a new way out.
I met her at the lights with her plastic bags
food bought at Woollies
with a Salvo’s card
making for the taxis on Pitt and Park
She’s used to cabbies, knows the drill
never mentions high-rise
The Block or Waterloo
Goes to the first one waiting in line
Calls through the window
asks ‘Are you free?’
Waits, as he looks up from the ‘Form’
Suspecting trouble, he hedges his bets
says he’s booked
The man in a Silver Cab examines
his windscreen, has no answer
to her open smile
her missing teeth counted against her
It’s clear round three is up to me
I demand a ride from a waiting cab
while she dumps her stuff
and jumps inside
‘I’ve got their numbers, I’ll follow through’
I yell to the street, as she moves away
Her strong voice trails a defiant response
‘I always ring, but it don’t change nothin’
Same old story with this black skin’