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The Northern Myth

Sep 8, 2015

Muralkarra (Crow) by Frank Malkorda

Crow is a creature who is intensely curious about everything to do with funerals and so, as befits their elaborate ceremonial, he is a skilled dancer and musician. He perches on hollow log coffin, called there by two names, Badurra and Maraych, just as, in fact, Djambidj owners have crow painted on the top of their ossuaries.

Bob Gosford — Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

Bob Gosford

Likes birds and people, not necessarily in that order.

Daunyiley-nyiley, gaya barrnga, gulbi birrirra warralanga, wardupalma, birrirra borja, Wakwakwak, jirnbangaya

Birrirra borja, garma borja, Garanyula-nyula, Warduba jirnbanga,

Birrirra borja, wandalanga, gurta birrirala.

Wak wak wak

Bianga borja, jirnbanga

Badurra borja, wandalanga, a Maraychnga, daunyiley-nyiley,

Badurra Wardupalmam.

Frank Malkorda, 1982 

English translation

Crow plays and sings, rubs his firesticks together – see his track in the skies! – gets up to dance and tap his sticks – Wakwakwak’s a dancing man.

Crow taps his sticks, perches on hollow log, dances at Garanyula, his camp in the upland forest – Wardupalma’s his clan.

He climbs on Badurra – see his heavenly track! He’s dancing up above.

Wak wak wak

A flock of crows caw to each others they eat, then rise to dance.

Crow perches on Badurra – see his heavenly track! On Maraych; he plays and sings, Wardupalma clansman dancing on Badurra.

The note for this poem reads:

Crow is a creature who is intensely curious about everything to do with funerals and so, as befits their elaborate ceremonial, he is a skilled dancer and musician.

He perches on hollow log coffin, called there by two names, Badurra and Maraych, just as, in fact, Djambidj owners have crow painted on the top of their ossuaries.

He lives in the upland forest and can beheard rubbing firesticks together. Their sound becomes his cackling laugh and the sticks themselves seem to be transformed into slapsticks.

Crow and hollow log coffin also have a celestial existence, for they are believed to form a constellation of stars in which hollow log is surrounded by a flock of dancing crows.

Crow’s heavenly track must be at a particular point above the horizon in the early morning, looking east from the Blyth River [in north-central Arnhemland], at the climax of the final disposal of the bones of dead Djambidj clanspeople.

From The Honey-ant Men’s Love Song and other Aboriginal song poems, R M W Dixon and Martin Duwell (eds), UQP Poetry, University of Queensland Press, 1990 at pp. 82-83.

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