Ali Cobby Eckermann is an Indigenous (Yankunytjatjara/Kokatha) Australian poet. She is part of the Stolen Generations, who as children of Aboriginal descent, were taken from their families. Eckermann was separated from her mother, and Eckermann’s son was taken from her as well. She has published five collection of poetry and two verse novels. She won a Windham-Campbell Prize for her poetry in 2017.
My friend was at the A & E, he wasn’t feeling good
I was at the barbecue, just like he said I should.
The phone call from the hospital shocks me with fear and fright –
‘You better come to ICU, he might not make it through the night.’
I stand silent at his bedside, he looks so dead already,
I try comforting his children as their lives become unsteady.
‘Please don’t go away,’ I whisper. ‘Don’t leave us behind.’
I pray then to my Ancestors, I ask them for a sign.
We sit all night like statues, on each side of his bed,
The thought of losing him is really fucking with my head!
The nursing staff fuss round with looks of deep regret.
But I was waiting for a sign that he won’t leave us yet.
The morning light creeps slowly across red desert sand
His eyelids flicker open and he fumbles for my hand.
‘Hello,’ he whispers, ‘how are you?’ and then falls back to sleep
My eyes stare at the monitors, the bips, the dots, the beeps.
‘He’s out of danger,’ the doctor says, ‘you should get some rest.’
And as I walked along Gap Road I look out to the west
2 pelicans fly overhead, floating on the breeze,
‘It’s the sign,’ I cry and thank the Spirits watching over me.
I return to the hospital, he is much stronger now
And the nursing staff all smiling as they too wonder how?
I share the story of the sign, the pelicans in the sky
We hold each others hands and smiles are in our eyes.
I drive out to Amoonguna to tell family he is right
I sit down with his Aunty, round the campfire, in the night
I ask her to explain the pelicans and the meaning of the sign
She laughs and whispers, ‘Arrangkwe just 2 pelicans in the sky!’
—— Ali Cobby Eckermann
Poet’s Note: arrangkwe – (arrente word) means no, nothing, no-one