• Kim Mahood and KA Nelson

On Kim Mahood, Black Snake

In early April Kim and I left Canberra on a road trip to Alice Springs. We had worked together in Alekarenge, 350 kilometres north of Alice, an Aboriginal settlement I know well. Kim’s job was to paint a map of country, with traditional owners. Mine was to write a train the trainer program to share her process with other artists next year.

I know Kim well, or thought I did. We’ve been friends for nearly fifteen years, but on this trip and in Alekarenge, with nearly a month together in close proximity, Kim’s knowledge of the natural world — geology, archaeology, geomorphology — and the not so natural world — anthropology, linguistics, motor mechanics — really stood out, and often took me by surprise. Her desire and capacity to learn quickly also shone through. This deceptively straightforward poem shows how Kim’s good brain slithers into learning mode.

KA Nelson



Black Snake


Last night, chance met
between lavatory and step,
all six feet of you,
black as a skin,
a convulsion of darkness,
like something the earth flung up

through a gap in my orchard,
come to share spring,
just the two of us,
leaving Adam, the poor dupe
biting apples and complaining
in some other Eden.

Without him the equation
fails, apples ripen and
the orchard stones conceal
A long black exclamation
parts the grass.

Soon the summer visitors will come
with their dogs and children.
Bring your dark coil
into my skull,
and I will hide with you
in snake-struck, cleft-brain,
porphyry light.

Kim Mahood