tango, the relationship between lead and follower, man and woman, is so intense and all consuming, that there is simply no time for small talk. The last man I danced with, I know more intricately in many ways than his lover: I know that he perspires in a tiny spot above his brow; that when the dance slows and our connection is tight, his breathing almost stops; that when my leg sweeps his, he arches his neck imperceptibly upwards; that when another couple got too close he subconsciously enclosed me in a protective embrace; and that his hand rested so delicately on the flesh of my back. Yet all I know about him are his name and his country of origin. Small talk is a luxury not afforded to us tango addicts.
LOST IN THE BUSH
I’d left the camp, and lost my way,
‘Mid tangled vines and ferns;
And puzzled was which way to take
From out the many turns;
When presently I saw some smoke
Through swamp oaks wreathing up,
And close beside me soon I heard
The yelping of a pup.
A forked stick, two sheets of bark,
A low, small fire in front,
And on the ground there sat a black, –
He’d just returned from hunt.
And on the coals a sumptuous meal –
A ‘possum roasting whole –
Among the ashes two corn cobs,
Which he that morning stole.
I told him I had lost my way,
Was weary, and footsore.
He pointed to a log, and then
Was silent as before.
I questioned him – Why all alone?
Where piccaninny, gin?
He sullen looked, and then replied:
“White fellow bin take him.
And he bin promise gib it me,
Clothes, blanket, and white bread,
Bacca, and rum, and budgery things;
Baal gib it though,” he said.
“And many moons I’ve trabbled bin
With white man long a dray;
But now me going back to tribe;
Baal me now with him stay.
“Almost all gone, blackfellow, now;
Baal plenty kangaroo;
Whitefellow sit down everywhere,
Him take it all land, too.”
He led me on, I’d wandered far,
For now ‘twas almost night,
Then pointing to my camp, he turned,
And soon was lost to sight.
I thought ‘tis late now to begin,
At this the eleventh hour,
Yet still a something might be done
By those who have the power,
For those once owners of the soil,
Neglected thus so long;
I would I had the poet’s gift,
I’d plead their cause in song.
(Kiama Independent, March 28, 1884)