Oct/Nov 2006 Poetry

Two Poems

by Barbara De Franceschi

Photo by Jim Gourley

Christmas on a Sheep Station

there is nothing subtle
about plucking a wild duck
turquoise head limp
against a soft brown chest / voice box silent

I am twelve years old
whisked from urban to rural Australia
where commodities are precious
conservation respected in every crude form

black leeches stick to my legs
after a swim in the creek
ghostly flutes piped through red-gum stands
sigh in sympathy
as I apply common salt to save my blood

I learn to squirt milk into a bucket
from a cow's bulging teat
fill vacola jars with fruit
grown in an orchard
that survives on bore water and chicken shit

in solid darkness with a narrow torch beam
I navigate the pathway to the lavatory
avoid being bitten by furry black tweezers
or spooked by the vaporous bleat
of a stray lamb

but I cannot tear feathers
from a dead chestnut teal

around a Christmas table
set with no nonsense
fragile bones rise on white china plates
for me... sweet potato and sticky dumplings


Doll's House

she wanted a doll's house—

so she could arrange her family
a mother / a father / maybe a sister or two

they would sit in quiet decorum
in front of an open fire
amongst cedar & ceramic
she would throw orange peel into the flames
giving the place an orchard smell

where she lived
hessian walls swayed in the wind
floorboards stuffed with paper
kept hope out
cockroaches in
candle wax dripped
on yesterday's grease
kapok mattresses gagged on stale urine
scratchy blankets chafed her face

every Saturday night
a policeman friend from down the road
brought her brawling father home
to save him from a cold cell
nothing saved her mother
who never begged
nor disowned hell

she had a sister once
died of cot death at three months
a tiny limp blue thing
no milk in her belly
no honey on her thumb

if she had a doll's house—

her fingers would walk
through the doorway
... slide the lock


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