Women's Business

by K A Nelson

I The first time I saw Ruby Napangardi
she was walking
without shoes
along the dirt track
from Top Camp
towards the Council building.
She was dressed
in a white uniform
red scarf
flattened her grey hair
against her head.
When I greeted her
and introduced myself
I noticed the blue embroidery
on the pocket of her dress
said 'Women's Brigade'.

She said, "Name, Ruby. I clean this place'.
And she did.

II The last time
I saw Ruby Napangardi
she was organising
a ceremony
in a sacred place
for women only.
She was dressed
in a red skirt
grey hair
loose and wild
budgerigar feathers
caught in curls.
When she pointed
her digging stick and began
I noticed the white clay
on her breasts seemed
to pour into the rising dust.

She said, 'Do like this, Nangala'.
And I did.

K A Nelson is a former public servant and adult educator, who won the Overland's 2010 Judith Wright Poetry Award for new and emerging poets. She lives in Canberra.

Last updated June 14, 2011