B. R. Dionysius was founding Director of the Queensland Poetry Festival. His poetry has been widely published in literary journals, anthologies, newspapers and online. He is the author of six collections of poetry and won the 2009 Max Harris Poetry Award. He recently was a joint winner of the 2011 Whitmore Press Manuscript Prize and will have a new book, ‘Bowra’ released in 2013. He lives in Ipswich, Queensland where he teaches English and writes sonnets.
Christmas Island Rat
We were worried about what you would bring
Into our country of nests & dark burrows, intrigues
You could only guess at. A nation of rodents brawling
All night, we encouraged high-pitched wars & rapid
Coupling, but kept those red land crabs in check.
It was the vanguard you sent ahead that finished us.
Not our black brethren who swarmed new continents
Walking planks to explore the world through a rat’s
Tunnel vision. But the other refugees they carried.
Diseases that pushed like railroads through virgin
Bloodstreams. If only you could have been processed
Offshore on some other ocean rock & kept at claws
Length in mandatory detention. Not perfect, but it
Would’ve given us time to think up a (s)pacific solution.
We came from the largest single cells ever to be thought
Into existence, larger than dinosaur eggs our shells cracked
Open your legends, your mouthwatering myths imagined us
Hauling off elephants; heavy-lift choppers, the East named
Us – Roc; who messed about with Sinbad & we probably
Were a little imposing for you standing at a little over 10ft,
Weighing in at half a tonne. Big Bird’s streetwise prototype.
Then Marco Polo, that intrepid reporter of misquoted facts
Named us Elephant Bird, now that hurt, how would he have
Liked us to call him ‘lemur-man’. Coastline huggers came next,
French too scared to pick through our deepest secrets, gave us
Pirates’ status – a lost treasure by the 16th century. Voromapatra
In the Malagasy tongue – ‘marsh bird’, fitting really for we sought
The most lonely places of all; at least your imagination took flight.