My palms feel hollow.
I can feel the blood rushing through my ears.
I am sat in an uncomfortable chair on a stage in front of what couldn’t be more than twenty people.
Why would I count the number of people.
A woman walks up onto the stage; she came from a doorway just to the left of me. She nods and smiles a small smile as she walks past me towards the lectern and the microphone.
Her voice comes through the speakers, why does this need to be amplified; there couldn’t be more than twenty people in the room. They could all hear her even if she speaks quietly.
She welcomes us all to country and to this evening’s proceedings. Her cadence is slow and purposeful. She has done this hundreds of times before, I have heard this hundreds of times before. I barely hear the words she speaks. The blood rushes through my eardrums but I don’t need to hear the words. I know what she is saying. I’ve never tried but I’m sure I could recite the words from memory if needed.
She finishes, the twenty people applaud and she leaves the stage. Another woman crosses her path as she descends the stairs. She is older, her hair grey with flecks of brown. She moves to the lectern, adjusts the microphone stand to better reach her height. Why? Everyone can hear you.
She speaks. I hear none of it. At least not enough to make any sense to me. Blood. Ears. Nervous.
“… It’s an honour… thank you aunty”
I think I can feel my seat getting sweaty, the moisture transferring from the seat of my pants.
“… inaugural… why shouldn’t we… self determination and control”
I hope no one will see the back of my pants and the sweat that may or may not be there.
“… laureate… eminence… without doubt or question”
My tongue definitely feels two sizes to big for my mouth. Why does my bonder seem to work against me at every point in my life, it’s like a bumbling side kick that I’m physically attached to.
“… all awards…made up at… not real unless you make them”
The twenty people in the audience are staring at me now. The old woman has stopped talking and is also look at me. I am sitting here in the uncomfortable chair staring back.
“Please, come up here” She says
I look at her quizzically for a moment before remembering she means me. I was thinking so much about my tongue that I had forgotten what I was here for. I stand and walk towards her and the lectern.
“I would now like to welcome our first ever Gamilaroi Poet Laureate to say a few words, maybe recite of his poem to us”
She takes a feather headband from the top of the lectern and places it on my head, it is new. Dead feathers from freshly dead birds. I will pass it to the new laureate in a years time.
The woman steps back I step to the microphone. I forget to adjust the height and my voice comes across the speakers half amplified and half shouted because I can’t properly hear myself in the room.
That’s why it’s amplified I guess. I adjust the microphone.
“It is truly a honour to accept this.”
I breathe, in quickly, then out slowly. You can hear my breath over the speakers.
“I take this so very seriously.”
I pause and look around the twenty faces in the room. My family, friends and people who have known me and my work intimately for years.
“I would like to instead of a regular speech rely on the words I have written before. They say more to me than I ever could, I know that doesn’t make much sense but it is true”.
“This is a work you haven’t heard or read before, I truly hope you enjoy”
I breath in again, this time slowly. I pull a crumpled piece of drawing paper from my pockets and spread it out on the lectern.
I growl a low growl into the microphone; the speakers send it across the room beautifully.
“I am withered in my mind
I stand here, aeons behind me, watching me from the corners of the room
I am done with it
I am close to being close to the place you wanted me to go
I am apart of your plan, I am no longer part of mine
I colour outside of the lines and I will not stop
Race never meant that much to me until you taught me to see it
Race never meant that much to me until you tried to take it away
I am, I am also not
I am in a box
I will take sides
Rose coloured glasses don’t tell you anything about who I really am, underneath the tint of my skin
I spin something out of nothing, thought out of emptiness, weft from whole cloth.”
I breathe again. I hear the rasp of my breath over the speakers.
We are done. I turn and walk back to my chair. The wet darkness on the rear of my pants is presented ever so nicely to the twenty people in the audience.
I just like every other person in the room is glad that it’s over. Ceremony for ceremonies sake is important, it is a part of being human.
May palms still feel hollow.