Her early wounds—

from a mother passed out in the toilet,

a syringe, a spoon:

a heroin addict's sine qua non—

are disguised by her wit,

restless irreverent intelligence,

like the unsettling boldness

of a woman in her youth.

Even the honesty of her words

as they echo in my head

ruffle the smoothness

(should I say whiteness?)

of my own life:

I'm not half-caste. I'm not part this

or part that. I'm Aboriginal.

You can't sit on the fence

with something like that—

you either are, or you are not.

Buttressed by her grandmother's stories

of baby whales swimming in circles,

building up rocks

to give birth to La Perouse,

her homeland by the sea;

of Pemulwuy,

a fighter for her people,

transforming himself into a bird

to escape the British—

she stumbles upon art

as a way of stalking the truth,

waging war against drugs,

teaching children to be proud of who they are:

black, white, or brindle.

P-J is an artist of mixed Aboriginal heritage who lives in Sydney, Australia.