by Chris Wallace-Crabbe
All over the country in those days there were hunters.
Even in Tasmania they roamed without fire;
But two blokes arrived once with flames and firewood
To sleep under the night sky,
Make free with spark, blaze, and ray
Of uncanny brightness. Our men and women
Gathered, hoarding this gift. The strangers had no women,
Being two strange wandering huntsmen
Bringing a boon to round the heart with its rays.
We wondered. We named it Fire,
Able to sleep now under the frosty sky
While an orange flickering spirit danced on wood.
Down through the scrub, out of a ragged wood
There came onto the beach two angry young women
Whose husbands were roving under different skies
For girls, not game - unworthy hunters.
These women showed no fear of shark or stingray:
Sun on the beach is a soothing fire.
Diving that green water, they were playing with fire,
Splashing around just as you or I would
In high summer. They didn't see the stingray
Which lurked in a sandhole spying on the women,
Merciless, crueller than armed men.
He aimed at their bodies, dark against the sky.
Under the brightblue, innocent sky,
Deadly as (later) gun or yellow bushfire
He was flat and hated all men.
With a long spear of unyielding hardwood
He pierced and killed both women.
Content in sandy shallows lay the murdering ray.
The strangers cared nothing for a stingray,
Nor even for beach or sky,
But strode down to those two dead women,
Roused them with bull ants, and lit a bonfire
Between them, stacking on dry wood.
The dead rose again, thanks to these wandering huntsmen.
Soon, very soon, two young women and two men
Were whirled above woods, mountains, beach, foam, stingray
And their fiery stars gleam in our night sky.
Copyright © 2014 by Chris Wallace-Crabbe.