Black Access / White Alarm – Dennis Garvey

Why should I be so surprised that the new indigenous prints
Hung on these recently built and freshly painted white walls
Clearly outshine those older colonial and post-colonial prints

I am house sitting one of the newer Mosman Park mansions
Painted in neutral colours, greys and whites, and erected for
Speculative purposes – to be sold when the market improves

From the top floor balcony I can see down to the Swan River
Or down onto blue streets sweeping past like the river itself
In this lush, opulent, beautifully gardened old money suburb

Houses like this are fast replacing the earlier colonial cottages
And those which remain have been refurbished to shine again
Wrought iron & lattice clad bull nosed verandahs self-satisfied

Like that tablecloth pulling trick badly enacted at a tea party
I whip my arm across the imaginary distance of the bay below
A movement intended to wipe clear the pleasure craft clutter

How did first and subsequent white settlers sketch this scene?
Imprisoned as they were in an alien space, lacking spiritual &
Legal connections to country through words spoken and sung?

Without that sense of a deep belonging and trapped between
Two worlds, a lost one they longed for, another yet to be found
It’s little wonder the indigenous prints outshine the white ones

If we can see it now, why couldn’t we see it when it mattered?
It matters now too, a painter friend says, when next she visits
It’s never too late to start anew, wipe clear the carte-de-visites!

Before departing this house of art, I punch in the security code
No one can steal its bounty without first knowledge of the code
So do indigenous painters have the knowledge – punch in code