Stephen Oliver

Stephen Oliver, Australasian Poet

The Find

for Hone Tuware

                                                                  They dug her up in Queen Street.
                                                                A fossilised colonial woman clutching a parasol,
                                                                stiff and rigid in her flannel frock.

                                                                Pince-nez clay encrusted on the bridge
                                                                of her nose, she was pointed toward
                                                                Alexandra Park, English settler fashion

                                                                when the pneumatic bursts shattered the
                                                                ear-bone. A couple of spades and they wedged
                                                                her out of the mould (intact)

                                                                and leaned her against the side of a
                                                                Kenworth and then broke for a smoke -
                                                                propped there as though to advertise it.

                                                                She was carbon dated 1863, and by the salt stains
                                                                on her handkerchief (tucked under the sleeve)
                                                                she had either been crying or spending

                                                                too much time with the boys down at the
                                                                Whaling Station. Records failed to prove this.
                                                                One thing remained a mystery to authorities:

                                                                the stake, or rather, surveyor's peg
                                                                driven through the breast bone, attested
                                                                to an acquisitive quarrel over which

                                                                were her rights, and which weren't?

[A video poem of The Find can be seen by clicking HERE.]

[from Night of Warehouses: Poems 1978-2000]