Poetry

Kangaroo Island 1819

The fucker’s hanging in the air. The rope’s as black against the 

light as his black skin, though his skin is bright with sweat where 

the rope is just a black slash that bisects the sky in equal portions. 

We have the skins. It’s a good haul. ‘Oi!’ he cries. ‘Pull me up! Lads? 

Will y’ pull me up!?’ He’s good at the work, no doubting that.

Below him on the sea ledge close to the water is the blood and muscle of 

how many seals? Normal we take some meat and the blubber but that far 

below it’s as much as we can do to lower one man down to club and carve 

and send on up the skins still warm from slaughter. 

‘Lads!’ he cries. Half-caste, mulatto, America out of Africa, big-mouthed, 

blabber-mouthed git. Is he beginning to get the whiff of it? Even from here you can see his eyes as they roll back hard in his head. ‘Lads?!’

We pull him up a bit. A trail of water leaks from him, a long bright 

jewel of piss. We stop. The big lad at the winch plucks at the straining rope. 

Antonio swings in an arc away from the cliff. ‘Lads!’ 

There’s a squeaky edge to his voice now as it cuts away from him. Is he 

halfway up yet? Halfway up was when we said we’d think on it. ‘Lads?’ 

He’s good at the labour. He’s handy with lance and hook and club. He’s strong. 

He can work as long as any. Longer. Give him his due. And he’s up for any mischief. In the dark night on the dead ship, he shafted his share to a quick, clean grave and back to shore with the booty. 

But then to talk on it?! We don’t even have to say it, we know what to do.

The big lad gets his blade. He saws at the cord. The rope whips off the ledge, a snake against the blue, then it straightens as the weight below rips it down.

Far down now, Antonio bumps off the blubbery mess of seal and blood 

and then he flips, not a word, into the water. 

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