James Charlton

(1947 - / Melbourne / Australia)

Koonya, Cape Barren Island, 1828 - Poem by James Charlton

She wore a sheen of possum fat,
ran from the surf with high-up knees,
kept orange starfish in a pool.
She flayed the sky with kelp straps,
jumped out giggling from behind rocks

until caught by the heels
and tied below deck.
They fed her in the sealers’ hut,
changing the leash after each month’s work.
She coughed up oyster pulp,

and those white barnacles she grew
inflamed Dan Smith with their rasp.
He buttoned his trousers,
trussed up her legs,
took her out the back,

fired a flintlock in her ribs.
There in the Cape Barren dunes,
under midden shells,
her chipped nails claw
the evasive sand.

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Maya Angelou

Caged Bird

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, May 23, 2012

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