Once Upon a Plastic Bag

For Jinnie’s ‘help me clean up my vil­lige’ fun­draiser, Septem­ber 2012.

To me, it’s essen­tial
to know the names
(Black Moun­tain, Sullivan’s Creek
olive tree, aca­cia, bank­sia)
my grand­mother spoke, off­han­dedly delib­er­ate
the names of plants
(red box, melaleuca, echin­acea, sage)


my grand­father knows the names
and calls of all the birds round here
and I would repeat them
under my breath
(cur­ra­wong, mag­pie, east­ern rosella
wat­tle­bird, butcher bird, Indian minor)
so that when I meet them
I know what they are


my uncle knows forests,
and when I walk with him
no mat­ter the con­tin­ent
he tells me what things are


and by these names I know that
I am stand­ing in a rain­forest
or by a river
or on a beach
a beach, feet in the ocean – by a rock­pool
I saw some­thing scut­tling
I called it Crab, but instead,
it was paper bag


swim­ming in the ocean
I saw some­thing float­ing – a jelly fish?
no, not a blue bottle, but another kind of bottle, not
of the sea


per­haps I should learn the names of plastics
(poly­ethyl­ene, poly­ureth­ane, PET)
my world is full of them
but I don’t know any­one
with a pas­sion for these names

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