Published October 5, 2020

First Place – Socially Engaged Poetry Contest #4

Emily Kame Kngwarreye

by Sylvia Anne Telfer
(Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, Scotland)
Wax Poetry and Art - "Emily Kame Kngwarreye" by Sylvia Anne Telfer
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Emily Kame Kngwarreye

Unsung you tunnel into Life’s blueprint, a marsupial
mole swimming through sand, sensing all.
Behind you, grains fall back into place: always what once
existed still exists, will forever exist—and this is the Dreaming,
eternal mapping of the way, and so it was with you,
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, Australian aborigine
who though childless carried us all within
a paintbrush womb of insight, in dreaming yams.
Your brushes quickened us as you stood firm, strong
as ironwood tree, an Anmatyerre elder, long-time keeper
of the women's Dreaming sites in your clan country,
Alhalkere. You muttered
Strike! Fight! Change!
and tunnelled on, knowing your mapping bypassed lies
lurking below smiles, oaths to end hunger, jettison asbestos
in Aboriginal homes, stop suicides. Emily Kame Kngwarrey,
your ancient landscape of spinifex with spiny flower
heads blown about like tumbleweed and whirling skeins
of red dust reflects current chaos for land echoes
the people and people echo the land. And so
you dreamed on, saw tuber ripen, leaf decline, ground crack
and in that, knew the pattern of growth and retold it
Big Yam Dreaming and what you painted held the brush.
In the Dreaming, yams yet spring from your fingers
for your hands are their leaves in maturity,
big yellow spots, your eyes their twining vines
with glossy, heart-shaped, purplish leaves.
Scatter yams over us, magical confetti, fashioned
in wisdom sprouting from universal compassion
for every brush stroke’s a strike against oppression
and so, we’ll strike injustices with yams in our hearts.
Emily Kame Kngwarreye, you’ll always be part
of what the future brings for you can never depart.
Such a magic yam seed you were, the quickening of us.

Sylvia Anne Telfer: Scottish poet/short storywriter frequently published
in magazines, anthologies (e.g. Poetry Review; Glasgow Herald;
‘Gutter 20’, Scottish PEN’s Declarations on Freedom for Writers &
Readers Anthology, etc.). Recently won the Janet Coats Memorial
Prize 2020 and the Pen to Print Poetry and Short Story Competition
2019, run by Arts Council England (
Sylvia is a qualified English teacher, campaigner to halt climate change,
a feminist and an equal rights activist.

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Previously published in
Wax Poetry and Art:
"Walking Sleep" by Ellen Dooling Reynard.
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