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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?