Head down on the desk,
he hides tears that force
their way out, warping ink
of words he can’t read.
Isoglosses: smudges of dialect,
script across areas of page,
title deeds to land his grandfather
collated: blocks of mallee,
caprock, breakaways,
map the farm: vast cleared spaces,
fencelines, patches of scrub,
irrepressible cairns of rock
picked when paddock-making,
maintaining: each year upturning
more relic-like granite,
more history. His reality.
The teacher approaches
and he chokes on his sobbing.
The family have sent him out,
away from sheep-trails
and furrows, dry winds
and drought: a boarder, home
only on holidays, socialising
with kids his own age,
to confront a language
he neither reads nor writes.
It’s your language, they say . . .
it explains who you are,
where you come from.
Why wheat grows
in the light of day . . .
Do you feel ill? teacher
asks quietly. Yes. The sun
is never alone in the sky . . .

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