September 2022

Back to Issue 12


By Vanessa Page

For Maria Blakey, who died on 7 February 1852, aged 17 months and two days at the Ross Female Factory, Tasmania.


She was buried without ceremony

          in the stark bright 

          of a Van Diemen’s Land summer


asleep, in a tiny row of doll parts;

          ulnas, femurs and skulls

          in an unmarked patch, on a hill


where the breeze arcs gently, brushes 

          over the soft yellow heads

          of wild gorse


where the tiny song of the pipits 

          rise and fall back to earth 

          like pretty bursts of electricity. 


It’s tranquil, standing here.


Still, I can’t help but imagine her mother, 

          bent over a crime-class washtub

          in the Ross factory yard 


and I wonder, was there ever beauty 

in that colonial sky for her?


          under that heaviness

          in the stark bright

          of a Van Diemen’s Land summer.