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Famous Reporter # 22
December, 2000
 

LYN REEVES

       Sarah’s Isle
 
(Macquarie Harbour Penal Settlement 1822 - 1833)
 
 
          Who is Sarah? What kind
          of tormentress inflicts such pain
          on her lover that he’d name for her
          this rock, set in a tainted sea,
          where all the shames converge
          to bring men low, their backs
          wealed and slashed by the Cat’s
          teeth, feet hobbled in irons,
          bellies growling like the constant
          waves with a hunger undefined
          by scarcity of meat or bread.
          How cruelly did she use her man
          that he would call this bitter place
          by her sweet name?
 
          Who is Sarah? Are her eyes
          as distant as the star-scabbed
          sky, her breast as cold
          as the dungeon-damp nights
          where warmth is a tot of rum
          to make you forget the clothes
          you sleep in are filthy and wet
          and you ache in your bones?
          Are her thighs resistant
          as the mountains ranged, rank
          upon rank like grey armies of rain?
          Do her lips scald like the whip
          that flays men alive? Is her heart
          as unrelenting as the days
          that break our backs with labour
          and our souls with grief?
          What kind of woman weds
          her name to hell?

 

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