Benang Extracts

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Author: Kim Scott
Date: Fall 2001
From: The Literary Review(Vol. 45, Issue 1)
Publisher: Fairleigh Dickinson University
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,884 words

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I know I make people uncomfortable, and embarrass even those who come to hear me sing. I regret that, but not how all the talk and nervous laughter fades as I rise from the ground and, hovering in the campfire smoke, slowly turn to consider this small circle of which I am the centre.

We feel it then, share the silence.

Of course, nothing can stop a persistent and desperate cynic from occasionally shouting, `Look, rotisserie!' or, `Spit roast!' But no cynicism remains once I begin to sing.

Sing? Perhaps that is not the right word, because it is not really singing. And it is not really me who sings, for although I touch the earth only once in my performance--leaving a single footprint in white sand and ash--through me we hear the rhythm of many feet pounding the earth, and the strong pulse of countless hearts beating. Together, we listen to the creak and rustle of various plants in various winds, the countless beatings of different wings, the many strange and musical calls of animals who have come from this place right here. And, deep in the chill night, ending the song, the curlew's cry.

Death bird, my people say. Obviously, however, I am alive. Am bringing life. People smile at me, say: `You can always tell.' `You can't hide who you are.' `You feel it, here?' And, tapping their fists on my chest, `Speak it from the heart.'

But it is far, far easier for me to sing than write, because this language troubles me, makes me feel as if I am walking across the earth which surrounds salt lakes, that thin-crusted earth upon which it is best to tread warily, skim lightly ...


The first thing is the first thing is that we always knew it was not the best way, but that there was no real choice and we had to keep moving if only to get past the bad smell of it all ...

And it is thus--with a bad smell--that I should introduce myself; even if such an aroma suggests my words originate from some other part of my anatomy than the heart.

Sadly, I can begin only so far back as my great-great-grandparents, for it is they--Fanny, Sandy One Mason, and their boy, Sandy Two--who limp by the government water tank, trying not to breathe at all rather than have this stench invade their nostrils.

Phew! Phew!

Something dead. Sandy One cursed the bastard who'd dumped a carcass by the edge of town. A dead kangaroo, he thought.

Well ... No. In fact, it was the body of a child. A boy. My family may not have even realised this, although I see Fanny--discreetly, indecently--sniff the air.

The poor boy had been only a few years old. His name? His name was ......

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A80634578