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Books & Poetry

Poem: Ceremonial Coffins

Books & Poetry

This week’s poem is contributor Junette Schoell’s response to the National Gallery of Australia’s Aboriginal Memorial – an installation of log coffins commemorating all First Nations people who, since 1788, have lost their lives defending their land.

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Ceremonial Coffins, Canberra, after 1988

As we entered
they came upon us –
a silent circle of columns,
planted in grey river stones
in the forecourt of
Canberra’s National Gallery.
Hollow log ceremonial coffins,
a stately memorial
to the Indigenous clans
winding their ways
beside the Arnhem’s Glyde River.
Singular tubes,
mostly tall and spindly,
leaning bending,
some holed atop,
a few shorter wider,
but all of regal bearing.
Dot painted and striped,
white and ochre clayed,
clanned with crocodiles
and barramundi
snakes and ladder lizards
goannas and geckos,
trees leaves
and a few Mimi spirits.
All symbols of silent resilience
since 1788.

Note: The Aboriginal Memorial was first exhibited at the Biennial of Sydney in 1988.

Junette Schoell, an original contributor to Poet’s Corner, was born and raised in the Barossa Valley. Following graduation from teachers’ college and university, she began her teaching career on Kangaroo Island, where she also started to write her poetry. Further teaching positions in Adelaide were followed by her move to Melbourne, where over the years her family, and accreditation for and work in pastoral service and counselling, have been major factors in her life. ‘Circling’, an illustrated, memoir collection of Junette’s poetry, was published at the end of 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Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to Submissions should be in the body of the email, not as attachments.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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