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Poem: Kangaroo Island, Cape Borda

Books & Poetry

In this week’s Poet’s Corner, Sue Cook ponders the perils of 19th-century voyages and the isolation of island light-keepers.

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Kangaroo Island, Cape Borda

I. Harvey’s Return

Some survived the voyages on the high seas,
on-board disease, menace of rocky reefs and capes;
still sixty wrecked ships wreathe the island,
each a tragedy of lives lost, of abandoned dreams:
another tall ship, later vessels driven by steam,
lying on ocean’s briny floor.
Inland a little, away from crumbling cliffs
is Harvey’s Return, a sad and simple cemetery,
names and dates on rough wooden crosses,
bleached and bleak testaments
to the hazards of nineteenth century
maritime travel, isolation of light-keepers,
lost wives and infants, far from home.

II. Flotsam and Jetsam

There is a motley museum collection at the Cape,
travellers expectations dashed on the rocks,
fragments of their hopes and dreams:
a wrought-iron letter box, embossed
with a light house pattern, a slot
for letters no postman could deliver,
black wire-framed spectacles, broken
left arm, for reading months old
newspapers from England,
a Wertheim Frankfurt sewing machine
to make new clothes for a new world,
a ceramic sink, Royal Doulton, London,
shards of fine china, willow patterned
and a vase, brown horse rearing, rider
in red hunting jacket, indigo background.
Sea-glass, once a brown bottle
smooth, shape-shifted by the sea
like the bones in the grave-yard beneath the waves.

Sue Cook was a senior English teacher, during which time she also edited the South Australian English Teachers Association annual poetry anthology. Her own collections ‘In Focus’ and ‘Water Music’, were published by Ginninderra Press in 2016 and 2018, with the latter making her Ginninderra’s Poet of the Month for October that year. Her poem Frog Cakes was featured in InDaily Poet’s Corner in 2015, from where it was taken up by the maker of that South Australian icon for promotional use. Her previous Kangaroo Island poems have also featured in InDaily Poet’s Corner, in 2016 here and 2018 here and here.

Readers’ original and unpublished poems of up to 40 lines can be emailed, with postal address, to poetscorner@solsticemedia.com.au. 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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