Poem a Day #7: Bush Tucker

Patsy - Kakadu - 2008

About six years ago, I took my son Kieran to Kakadu, in Australia’s Northern Territory. A friend of mine was working as a ranger in the National Park. We stayed with her, and during the day toured the incredibly beautiful area.

One trip we did was with a Yolngu woman named Patsy (that’s her above, starting a fire using sticks).  The Yolngu are the indigenous people of that part of Australia.  She led us on a bush tucker tour, showing us the foods that her people traditionally eat. When you are out in the bush with someone like Patsy, you realise just how little you know about the real world, and how short a time you would survive if left to your own devices.


Bush Tucker

The Yolngu woman leads us to the billabong

picks up a long pole with a hooked end

deftly entraps a water lily, drags it to the bank

twists the bulb from its foot, the flower from its head

breaks the stem into small chunks

hands them out like lollies.

They are nutty, slightly sour


She reaches into a clump of leaves

in an overhanging branch

pulls down a nest of green tree ants

removes the leaves, tosses them aside.

Smiling, she crushes and twists

the ants and larvae

dispenses portions to us

like a priest giving communion.

They taste like lime


She leads us to a scrubby area

tells us how to spot bush carrots

how to uproot them

with digging sticks

how to pull the tuber from the stem.

For every one I find, she finds ten.

Mine tastes like parsnip


She leaves us at dusk.

We drive back to town in the dark

stopping at the supermarket

for tinned beans and stew.


© Mike Hopkins 2014

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