THE WALLABIES, FLINDERS ISLAND
I can find the wombat
grass-snuffler, abroad in the day
like a bland hairy pig
or a fallen koala with middle-age spread;
but the small people stay in the ti-tree
watching me out in the open.
For ten thousand years they have kept their fear
without man or dingo
since the sea washed round their hills.
They long to drink, but it isn't safe,
not yet, until after the gun is heard
and the ute goes home to feed the dogs.
Yet the meek must always possess the earth
or what could the mighty steal?
Their fear has no indignation.
They are meant to be killed and eaten
and to feed in terror all their lives...
Man-smell has entered the thickets
--loud thumpings in ti-tree gullies,
glint of an eye, trembling nostril.
Only the crow, manoeuvring from post to post,
knows that my pencil is not a gun.
But at dusk, by the lake --
For an instant the ears come up
forked and twitching like a diviner's rod
dowsing the shoreline for lethal sounds - those
faint steady fumblings before the rifle-crack.
Twin Bennet's wallabies, unshot and ignorant of Bennet
and now, as it turns out, lovers.
My step brings their ears, then their shoulders, erect.
But they forget me, and stare on out
at their lake, where the sun swims into night.
Source: <em>The Olive Tree</em>, collected poems of Mark O'Connor, Hale and Iremonger 2000