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Books & Poetry

Poem: Unverified sighting of a thylacine

Books & Poetry

An old lure and legend starts the new year, in this week’s Poet’s Corner contribution from Heather Nimmo.

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Unverified sighting of a thylacine

Balfour, Tasmania 1977, and written after
reading D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Snake’

A thylacine came to Balfour one evening,
and we, watching the sun set over the Norfolk Range,
from the darkening dumps of an abandoned
copper mine, my not-yet-husband picking over
lumps of peacock ore, and I, seated on a rock,
the two of us chatting,

and our two dogs,
one brown, the other black,
yapping in the dark teatree scrub below us,
a high anxious sound,

and we falling silent as
one dog broke cover, then a second,
then a third. A third?
What then was first?

A dog-like creature with an awkward gait
and rigid tail, and our two dogs without a tail.
And were there darker stripes upon its dark-brown back?
And we, silent, turning to each other.

It can’t be so.
Not now.
The thylacine’s long gone,
hunted to extinction,
the last to die at Hobart zoo in 1936,
two months before the politicians
passed a bill to save them.
Not now. Not here.

But there were other recent sightings:
Corrina, Sandy Cape, Black River,
where Lily Davis from her kitchen window
saw – believed – one morning.
And was not believed.

But we believed and kept our sighting secret,
glad that the thylacine had come to interrupt
the sunset, breaking free from the dark.

Heather Nimmo has written more than 20 plays for stage and radio, working with some of Australia’s leading actors, directors and designers, and winning a number of literary awards. She has also worked on television and film scripts. Between 1976 and 1981 she lived in Balfour in Tasmania, working as a tin miner. Since then she has been a school guidance officer based at Burnie, and taught at universities in Perth and Adelaide, the latter where she now lives. Her part memoir part history, ‘Grasping at Shadows: Balfour, the mining town in the Tarkine’, was published last year.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments. A poetry book will be awarded to each accepted contributor.

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