Ellen van Neervan has written Expert with all the right ingredients: patience, surprise, indignation and inevitability, to give the reader a view of a current state of play. She takes the reader into an immediate situation, giving us the triggers that tell a story, read a mood, instruct us about the narrowness of perception. Simplicity and rhythm give the poem emotional depth. We become an insider to a raw and interpretable moment. This is poetry at its most touchable.



Poor me

don’t know how it happened

think I got

a non-Indigenous girlfriend

who thinks she’s an expert

don’t know how she’s got her expertise

think I’m the first one she’s met


she tells me I’m closed to other sides of the debate

that she has the answers just because she saw a television ad

for Reconciliation

and though most of the Indigenous Australians are opposed

she says it’s for our good

talks about drunks and sexual abuse ‘up north’

devalues my own knowledge (too urban)

and anything I get from black media

(not the whole truth

I wouldn’t trust it)

she likes to argue when she’s had a few

13 times more

her voice loud

(87%) of intimate partner homicides

fresh tears on my face

involving Indigenous people, are alcohol related

she’s drunk, I tell the booliman

still shaking. Sitting on the steps.

no, I haven’t had any

won’t let her forget this statistic

tonight it’s her

in the paddy wagon


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