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Exchange at Skirmish Point (poem) - Jaya Savige - Australia - Poetry International

 
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Exchange At Skirmish Point
That which is exchanged should be capable of comparison.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics
Elbows raised up above the outgoing tide,
the lead-line of the bait-net is tied around our ankles,
the float-line bobs sedately across the top.
We splash for garfish to sell at our local
tackle-shop, where the news-crew comes
to film the larger flathead for Coastwatch.

Flinders put in for repairs to his starboard
a few hundred yards off a sandbar we call Gilligan’s;
confirmed a quantity of pumice on the ebb,
cut open a pine that smelt for all money of turpentine
& stroked the white flowers of the tea-tree.

He swapped the yarn belt that kept him decent
for a fillet made of roo hair; was asked for his hat,
the one with the cabbage tree filaments,
in exchange for her dilly (a bag made of rushes
containing a relative’s skin, white clay, red paint,
crude hair comb & a rag for absorbing honey).

He took the dilly, but couldn’t relinquish his hat,
& so a spear sailed over the gunwale;
the musket succeeded on the third attempt,
hit one, the rest scattering like buckshot, or
an excess of netted garfish, left chattering
on the beach.