our bilya – Dennis Garvey

“it’s all music and song
feeding off and into
each other”

here on the banks of the Harvey River
its traditional owner and custodian
is speaking to participants
of this river ramble about connections
between rivers and the Bindjareb
Noongar people …

“language, law, culture, country are one
they all sing one song – the song of the land
where the rivers flowed our culture flowed
along waterways sacred to creation beliefs

“the river, our bilya, sustains life –
human and marine life, land animals, water birds
and plant ecosystems – all are our bilya”

a circling of the belly button, his bily,
while following the flow of the winding
river with outstretched forefinger
reconnects the health of the river
to the health of the umbilical cord,
as written in creation belief

“the healthier the river
& the umbilical cord
the healthier all life is”

the old river now on a saline drip and a plate of dying
gums, can’t see or hear these words
blocked as they are by broadacre
farms and fences whose sprays and fertilisers spread
their bile mile upon mile upon mile

“this knowledge
of our bily
our bilya
is everyday knowledge

“it is in our
cultural ceremonies
our way of life

“let it be ingrained
in your bily
in your bilya
your everyday knowledge
your cultural ceremonies
your river
your way of life

“the health of your bilya is the health of our
bilya now too!”