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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 9, Number 2, June 2015

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Marilyn Humbert
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


Plunkett Point

Among banksia and melaleuca, tangled in the understorey of bracken fern, there are shadows and the muffled curses of miners. Brought by ship from England to dig in cold sands near the Saltwater River on the Tasman Peninsula, convicts from the penal settlement of Port Arthur toiled in the mines to make revenue and build towards economic independence for Van Diemen's Land. They drowned in flooded pits, were left to float with dead fish, seaweed and shells or were lost, crushed in cave-ins. Many perished in solitary confinement or under the lash.

ragged sounds
picks and shovels
from the shaft
coal miners emerge—
the screech of circling gulls

Now it's a World Heritage site and like so many tourists, I follow hollow footsteps between stringybark gums, wondering at convict fortitude and the meanness of man.

campfire glow
casts a knowing light—
echoes
of iron manacles
on the tidal flow


Author’s Note: Van Diemen's Land was the original name for the colony of Tasmania used by most Europeans. The penal colliery at Plunkett Point operated from 1833–1848.

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