“Tasmania” by Rafaella Del Bourgo

Rafaella Del Bourgo


The frigid waters of the Huon River
trudge along sodden banks,
muscling aside grasses, and scolding saplings.
Twin swans, crayon black with crimson beaks,
hiss and feint at a six-foot snake
tricked out in beige and chartreuse.
The birds take off, slice the sky;
the river licks the scallop pattern on its surface.

My house, too, is cold, a school
held together with convict nails.
In the morning, I scrape frost from the windows,
to reveal cow faces pressed against the glass.
Lonely and bored, they beg for entry,
lowing into the empty mountains.

When the stove is hot, I bake rolls to eat with blackberry jam,
fruit salvaged before Nanny the Goat
nibbled the vines into seasonal oblivion.
You knock.
I think it is the lamb who clacks daily at my door,
but, no, he is behind you,
eyes black as prunes pressed into the hopeful face.
You brush in.
Your anger is a gift you are happy to present me
and you shrug off your jacket, the better to give it.

When you are spent, you whisk yourself away,
jacket clutched in your fist,
and I am left with the swans and the poisonous snakes,
the goat and the lamb,
and a lovely silence,
and a lean orange cat,
who weekly deposits still-warm marsupials
on my doorstep.

from Rattle #11, Summer 1999


Rafaella Del Bourgo: “When I returned from my first trip to Tasmania, my brother asked, ‘Did you go because no one has ever been there before?’ I was bewildered, since I had been working there—sent by the Australian Arts Board. My brother said, ‘A part of you is really not normal. What you do and your reactions to things are often unusual.’ I think perhaps it’s into this odd pocket of my soul that I dip when I write about growing up in the San Fernando Valley and then not-so-perfect Laguna Beach, traveling around the world, sailing in Mexico and Hawaii, about my passion for nature and her creatures, and about the quirky people who inhabit my life and imagination.”

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