Hunger

I am the poor man
crouching between decks
sailing
to the edge of the earth
Van Diemen’s Land
because I stole my master’s chickens.
I am the “hard man”
feeling my swollen knuckles
testing my chains
sailing again
to Macquarie Harbour
because I punched the guard
who stole my ration.

I am the convict
wading waist-deep
in icy black water
hewing Huon pine
thinking of stinking salt beef
and maggotty biscuit.

I am the “depraved and degraded man”
lying in the dark silent
coffin-sized cell
on Sarah Island
this prison
within a prison
because I made a nail
into a fish-hook.

I am the “vilest of the vile”
mounting the gallows
because I escaped
and starving in the bush
ate my fellow convicts.

I am the dead man
wandering the landscape
whose only hunger
now
is that you
should please
remember me.

— Sarah Island, Van Diemen’s Land