Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site

Clean, bright, efficient death

1 Comment

Cow carcasses














A tiger doesn't change its stripes

Thylacinus cynocephalus was a mouthful,
too difficult to articulate, better to imagine

its wolf-dog-head contemplating
the tender hides of colonists'
sheep and a gun-barrel.

Better to mount its robust tail
erect and purposeful, a mouth full
of poultry and to consider its still,
taxidermied potential.

Small marsupials float, suspended
in alcohol and glass.

Curiosities drifting,
awash with human intent.



Here, in my hand,
near the mount of Venus,
I'm keeping the small things in my life.

Orange grains of sand
I've stolen from the sandblow,
a speckle backed cowry
grinning its bar of gritted teeth,
a silvered scar to mark night's drunken fall.

A gecko scuttles up the yellow wall
to hide behind the yellow
dress print of Kahlo
and her winged eyebrow.
A monkey holds forth to a parrot.
Frida looks out
as the gecko begins to sing.

Understand, as I open my palm
of trinkets, that this is all
I need to hold.


Gold mountain

Strange to find beauty in this place. At this time.
On a night drive to Rockhampton to see a trio
of plays about mining, and Luke Howard (a lucky find)
playing New Gold Mountain on the radio, turned up loud.
And this is gold country too; or it was.
The abattoir to the left funnels steam into the night,
a long slow drag exhaled by a thousand beasts,
also travelling tonight. Poor cattle, horses, and pigs.
Some days, the air is so bloodthick it hinges
at the back of the throat, a glottal of rusty muck.
Not tonight though. The air is winter clear, glassy.
Tonight the abattoir sits atop its small hill festooned
with industrial ribbons of light. Orwell might have
named it the 'Ministry of Freedom', its chrome pipes
and turrets silvered by the moon, a grounded star —
its orbit of sportsground light celebrating
some kind of industrial momentum, a night time
broadcast announcing clean, bright, efficient death.


Barlow's Hill, Central Queensland

Stripping black wattle bark
for tannic acid, they've piled the cart high —

a mountain of bark for tanning pelts.
Saturday afternoons spent in the back

of the shop perusing snakeskins,
kangaroo and possum pelts from trappers

as tanned leather or green hides. Afternoons
holding up the shapes and shades of animal

furs and skins, puzzling the contours of new
boots, laces, belts and bags. Quietly imagining

the vivid lives of creatures walking
these scrubby hills. Land bought off the back

of possum skins, tanned with: alum,
salt, wattle bark or tea.

Kristin Hannaford headshotKristin Hannaford is a Queensland based poet. Her writing has appeared in Cordite, Australian Poetry Journal, Overland, Filling Station and Trace, a chapbook of commissioned poems exploring histories of Rockhampton. She was awarded an Australia Council for the Arts Literature Board New Work grant to develop a new collection of poems in 2013.

Topic tags: Kristin Hannaford, poetry



submit a comment

Existing comments

Great poems. Thank you, Kristin.

Tessa McMahon | 13 February 2014  

Similar Articles

A distasteful slice of gender politics pie

  • Tim Kroenert
  • 12 February 2014

Adele is a single mother suffering the debilitating after-effects of past trauma. But her story offers no robust consideration of mental illness. In stark contrast to her male counterparts, Adele is merely pitiable and helpless, and lacks the agency to raise herself from despondency. Weakness is thus conflated with femaleness. Only the arrival of a strong, practical and violent man serves to raise her Adele from her stupor.


The empathy revolution

  • Barry Gittins and Jen Vuk
  • 13 February 2014

While realpolitik can drive us beyond a healthy scepticism to cynicism and indifference, British cultural thinker Roman Krzaric contends that when we look beyond the real — through imagination, creativity, vulnerability and networking — we can bring about the ideal of 'empathy on a mass scale to create social change' and even go about 'extending our empathy skills to embrace the natural world'. Without dreamers like Krzaric, we're stuffed.