Collection of the National Gallery
of Victoria: “Feathered Fan”, c.1880
Her laugh was too loud,
her dress too red,
and the fan she carried
sparked whispers around the room.
It was said a Chinese man
had worked the fine ivory handle
and the silken tassel and cord,
but it was the cockatoo feathers
lurid in scarlet and black
that caught the eye.
The older ladies turned away.
The young ones clustered close,
and the gentlemen too,
to learn of her travels,
to wonder at her accent
and marvel at the words she used.
She set her head
on one side like a bird
while the lazy fan wafted
sulkily back and forth, to and fro.
I stood close to see
her glittering fingers
as she dallied with the fan
on that steamy evening
in Palmerston, here in the far north.
Elaine Barker was an original contributor to Poet’s Corner in its Independent Weekly print days. A former librarian, she holds a Master of Arts from the University of Adelaide, has run creative writing courses, and seen her own short stories and poems appear in literary journals and anthologies around Australia. She has received the Friendly Street Poets Satura Prize on three occasions, and has published four collections of her poetry, the most recent being See My Feathered Fingers which was launched last month.