Lee Cataldi – Mangoes

Profile Lee Cataldi LE Poetry & Writing Lesbian Poets & Writers February 2018

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Mangoes, poems by Lee Cataldi

Lee Cataldi was born in 1942 in Sydney Australia. She grew up in Tasmania, went to university in Sydney, then as a post-graduate to Oxford, England. Subsequently she lived and worked in England, then returned to Australia in 1974. She taught English for six years in an inner-city high school in Sydney, worked as a teacher-linguist and then a field linguist in the Northern Territory and Western Australia. Her publications are; three books of poetry, Invitation to a Marxist Lesbian Party, The Women who Live on the Ground, and Race Against Time, also, A Handbook to Sixteenth Century Rhetoric, with Peggy Rockman Napaljarri Yimi-kirli, Warlpiri Narratives and Histories, and with Tjama Napanangka a Ngardi-English Dictionary. In 1998, she spent three months in India on an Asialink Fellowship. Now she lives in the southern Mt Lofty Ranges and breeds horses.

mourning is women’s business

for Tjama


with a gesture as large as the planet
you call up the spirits of women
tonight you can see them   thousands
filling up the country so it is

no longer empty

and lonely as it will be
when you are gone

and the multitudes no longer
dance across the spinifex


you were dancing
a slow skip
in the grand style
wearing a striped pointed hat
and white ochre
all your golden hair
cut to the grey

you go on without them like those
wounded in the leg
dancing towards the embrace of the others
who limping
dance towards you

when the circles of recognition are complete
after days and weeks of sitting in the dust
you can get up  wash  go home
back to your places of employment

and the free spirit will burst
out of this belly of grief
into the air


when you were young you went to law
childless but free

now the funerals string together
narratives of loss
how hard it is
to think any more of forever

you want private you want
out  fold your shirt over your chest
and yourself up to sleep
your stomach hurts
with grief

when you were young and went about your business
who would have thought it would end
covered in white clay in a row of widows
seeing the land losing its people

your stomach hurts
and it’s hard to breathe


your tears
are warm upon my face
would be
warmer on my thigh
your tears

history could stop them

my history


suddenly I saw us
eating mangoes all
inhibitions gone drunk again
and young

our faces
pressed against each otherour noses
deep in sweet yellow mango flesh

our eyes
blinded with pink mango light

surrounded by crushed and rotting fruit together
under the hot dark tree


Aaron Baajo Japangardi age
fourteen of Balgo   doesn’t want
his aunt’s stories or her dreams
of an outstation at a spot
where two men changed the universe

he wants
to fuck and take drugs and get
his gorgeous arse to dance parties

and be picked up
by rich older men

the opening of the children’s centre in Balgo

a smell of frying meat
drifts across the scene
and steam
from bloodwood leaves assists
departing souls to leave

a tiny child
hurls a rock across the yard
some skills die hard

it is as if the language
centre that was here
had never been   the kukatja books
into which we put
our black and white lives have become
art works no-one can read

these days Balgo is a picture

and for sale

© Lee Cataldi