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The visitor from Bahrain

Life on land

“Little has changed since the 80’s. It seems that our incredible Australian wildlife is viewed through invaders’ eyes, as government policies demonstrate, and that in Australia, war has been declared between kangaroos and “our mob”. Matina Tsaloumas

Matina Tsaloumas

March 12, 2023

I have dedicated my poem to Jane and Frank from Dunkeld in Victoria. It was inspired by a story they told me, about a visitor (to a retreat) from Bahrain who had never seen any wild creature before, let alone a kangaroo. I never really saw a kangaroo myself, until I became aware of them in a historical and social context, and until my friends became involved in the fight to protect them.

The visitor from Bahrain

Dawn blew a bright gold bubble hued
with mother-of-pearl and drew a road
through the middle, with paddocks and
trees on either side, and kangaroos
all focused on one question – was that
a killer going down to the creek?

He stops in his gravel-grinding steps and
raucous in the silence hears his thoughts,
squawking on regardless. The kangaroos
have stunned him – their singular eyes
pinned upon him, their anachronism –
he reaches for his camera cum phone.

But the mob is taking no chances. His stick
drops to the ground. They spring into motion,
a brown wave beating across the earth’s
weed-encrusted brow. Nothing in his hemisphere
of pacing, prowling, pack-
laden animals has prepared him for this.

For the power in their curved tails, each
effortless arc releasing, then returning
to gather momentum. He has triggered
a maelstrom, feels the whole tableau was
engineered for him; senses rainbow skins
of memory, enveloping time and space.

The trees here seem to fall upon their feet,
he thinks, noting the glint on their sickle-bladed
leaves. He breathes their breath, their generous
hospitality, recalls the lonely tree of life. Down
to the half-moon water he hurries, hoping
a platypus might surface, swimming strongly.

Matina Tsaloumas
Dunkeld 2018

First published in the Australian Conservation Foundation's anthology 
Poetry or the Planet (2021).

About Matina Tsaloumas

Matina Tsaloumas lives with her family in Athens, Greece, and works in the organic certification sector. Her poetry is inspired by the beauty and the destruction of the natural world, history, social upheaval, everyday life, and great poets through the ages. Her poems and translations have been published in Hecate Journal, Southerly, Antipodes (a Global Journal of Australian / New Zealand Literature), Antipodes (Journal of the Greek Australian Cultural League), Live Encounters, and Poetry for the Planet (Australian Conservation Foundation Anthology).

Jane Gibb and Frank Jesse are the owners of the Griffins Hill Iyengar Yoga Retreat in Dunkeld, Victoria. The retreat's surrounds near a major national park have been a focus of the slaughter of Kangaroos for commercial gain in Victoria. Jane and Frank enduring many nights and years of disruption and fear as the shooter did his grim work.