[Early lexicographers and missionaries]

Early lexicographers and missionaries
translated the Arrernte altyerre as “God”
or “Dream,” in Warlpiri jukurrpa, meaning,
eternal uncreated mother country see
put fetch totemic time of creation eat
for breakfast story film sleep talk track
conceived come into being ancestors
roamed into existence spirit and law sites
springs water wheel bush tucker the story
in us, says an Arrernte elder, not a dream
like a fairytale dream, the presence of place
where knowledge begins celestial fires
what has happened and still happens
altyerre undreamt
altyerre kangaroo and honeyant
altyerre snake foot trail
Jesus and Mary, holy trinity, welcome
to the floating dream, “the World

his mother’s father’s country is what
Jesus called Altyerre,” says Wenten
Rubuntja, painter of law and song 
the changes and transformations

Copyright © 2022 by Jeffrey Yang. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on December 16, 2022, by the Academy of American Poets.