when I walked with my First Nation friend in Australia

our footprints were the same – marks in time and place, whispers
on the land. hers had longer toes, a lighter touch, her higher arch scarcely
skimming the surface of the red dust road. you could tell

I was following, hers paused occasionally, turning
and smudging the powdered earth between us, gathering up
the grains in pinched skin. her footsteps were rhythmic, heartbeat

paced, moments of movement that mourned the song
of the mother. she danced a little, displaced the land beneath belonging
feet, placed her land beneath her feet. our bodies became

the map, charting out the points where we lingered
longingly, where the dappled sunlight dripped on us like melting
butter, running down our bare flesh onto crusted

paths. we merged into one as we rounded the river, disappearing
into cooling waters quenching that part of us that thirsted
for more. we swam till fading light beckoned

us home, our impressions trailing behind tired
limbs, through bush lined lanes into the mass of structures that bore
the town. we left our embrace in the earth, toes melting into toes obscuring

our separation, and as the sky dimmed into night we promenaded
the parade of hotels, where the tone of her feet was too dark to glide
through the guarded gates into the gilded paradise of cocktails and canned

laughter. in her country it was the pale stranger at her side who held
the keys. we retreated to the welcome noise of the downtown
bar that had no care of the colour of our soles and rested, pressing

our toes together as if in prayer. if by chance you were soaring
overhead and happened to glance upon us, you’d find two figures playing
footsie like childhood friends in the park.

Julie Easley

The original version of this poem, incorporating the aboriginal flag can be found here.