This Landscape Before Me

By Sarah Holland-Batt Sarah Holland-Batt
Is unwritten, though it has lived in violence.

First the factory stood, quiet as an asylum.
Then the annihilating mallee with its red fists of blossoms
and the mountain ash creeping over it like a stain.

I have no proof, but I tell you
there were leadlight windows here once, barred.
They cast a little striped light on the women.

Now in scrub and yellow broom I stand on a history
braided and unbraided by stiff Irish wrists.
The rope and span and carded wool are unpicked
as are their faces and names.

Londonderry, Cork, Galway, Kildare—
as I say the words they are sucked away
to a hemisphere in darkness.

I will not presume to say
what suffering is or how it was meted out in this place.
At what point it breaks a body I cannot tell.

But this morning I saw a young rabbit
hunched in brush and shadow.
I saw its lesioned face, its legs too thin to scramble,
the blood-berry red and pink scab of its eye.

It had caught the disease
we brought here for it
and wanted a quiet place to die.  

And it was lucky, or as lucky as it would get—
there was time and light, the hawks and dogs
had not been written yet, and were still out of sight.


Source: Poetry (January 2011).

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This poem originally appeared in the January 2011 issue of Poetry magazine

January 2011

Biography

Sarah Holland-Batt's first book is Aria (University of Queensland Press, 2008). This past year she was an Australia Council Literature Resident at the B.R. Whiting Studio, Rome.

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Poems by Sarah Holland-Batt

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Social Commentaries, History & Politics, Class

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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