Merely a signature

Adèle Ogiér Jones

There’s a little house in a street formed long ago
Running to Dandenong Road, not far from the old state school
There a century and its half, the original hidden by portables now. 
I call the house mine, though the land belonged to others before,
To Boon wurrung people long since departed and with them
The Yalukit-Willam clan travelling up from the coast
Through acacia and red gums to their home
And land, forgotten in the years
Before Crown records.

There’s a name on a title, old and yellowed with age
An original, no longer found on slick, blue printouts
Verifiable, this certificate of title under Land Transfer Act
County of Bourke, but no mention of the Boon wurrung.
Typed words show the purchaser of land Crown claimed,
From Gippsland a Sarah Tackaberry by name
Entitled as spinster, now estate proprietor
Signature formed with care to transfer
All to her.

A woman of Yarragon it shows and delving begins,
A woman of means, who never lived here but dreamt perchance
Seeing market gardens established through heathland,
A business to suit tastes of those yearning flowers 
Grown in far homelands, vegetables in soils different
From her own further south, so I search her,
This Tackaberry woman purchaser from Gippsland,
Independence and foresight
Nineteen twenty-nine.

Irish parents from Wexford, arrived with family already
Two joined British against Boers, others decorated
In later wars, two never to return but remembered.
From Echuca to Darnum, then her birth at Buln Buln
Where she watched farmers collect mail coming through, 
Sad as father died young, yet glad to see her mother 
With women first to vote, a staunch Red Cross worker
Publishing her son’s letters
From the Front.

Stepping in her mother’s footsteps, honouring siblings
Joining other junior supporters of Red Cross
And in following years with 1918 flu outbreak
The one called Spanish which fled across borders
She focused with intent reading reports 
Declaring it careless of climatic conditions,
Physicians wrote of incidence in far rainless Egypt 
As well as their own rainy Gippsland
Now under threat.

There’s a name on an old title in the very first line
Of a woman from Gippsland, who history may forget
A woman they called Girlie, though she lived to grand 96
Never married, no offspring, but I see her photo 
In print, the Weekly Times from the 50s, her CWA years
With many more stories Yarragon people can tell. 
So I draft this tale for I found her standing on land
Which was others
Long before we signed our names.

Adele is a Melbourne poet who works internationally, and so often longs for Victoria, Australia. She has five collections of poetry, with the latest, Following Rivers in Trees now published by Ginninderra Press. Published in numerous e-journals and print anthologies, Adele’s recent poems include a trilogy on works of Swiss artist Anni Zindel – From the Attic, In the Atelier, At the Gallery (Picaro Poets, 2021).



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