The Black Duck Hunt

A poem by Chris Miller, Adelaide, SA

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Beneath a shrouded, cumulus veil
– adjacent Myall Creek –
lays a reeded lagoon of misty, murky waters
Its gloomy ambience
belies a timeless serenity.

Yet, from Station way,
through deeper water wet,
come shadowy figures,
with shotguns set
Devilish disturbers in camo hats
– some bent: some straight –
all walk with eerie, wading gait
Echoes of eleven stockmen sneaking –
that Sunday, June 10, 1838.

Once again they hunt in pack,
"Wickedness" following in their tracks
Lips on whistles;
mind on murder;
pulse erratic;
hairs-a- bristle
Cordite greets the morning drizzle
This time round, there’s offspring in tow:
mandatory iPhones capture the show.

Sound and fury hark back to past:
spooked ducks flap, as fake phalli blast
Present-lot shame with muzzles neat:
"mere" imitators of historical cross-hair cheats!
Fleming’s swordsmen, malicious and vile:
countenance stern, caustic smile
Twenty-eight headless corpses draped:
roped young girls endlessly raped.

Today’s dark-brown meat is full of lead:
once, sky-life Dreaming –
now, ground dead!
Crack of rifles; chasm of death;
gamey taste on the canine breath
Ripped-off heads mean a future bar boast!
Palls of smoke from incinerator roast,
mingle with disembodied,
Wirrayaraay ghosts.

“Oh Daddy,
aren’t we having fun?
Can I try to shoot just one?
Can I *please* wring its scrawny neck,
when Rex brings back the pelleted wreck?”
“Of course you can!
– tradition son: nothing’s new,
culling black meat‘s just what we do!
Fire ye up,
fire ye down,
but dodge that blood,
as they plummet down –
now, ain’t this living?”

As frozen words leave that rock-like mouth,
youthful bravado grows bigger:
small finger squeezes complicit trigger
But Colonial sons never thought to cower
– kicked babies heads off freely –
cherished the blood-mist shower
But this new breed of murdering troll,
know only too well
for whom the bloody bell tolls.

Now-revealed hunt launches
its 'vermin' slaughter
Drakes’ wings flay like the
legs of those ravaged daughters
As once-fine feathers
rain on surface flat,
Hell again rolls out her welcome mat
When Post-Colonials murder black ducks,
they wear camouflage rig
Contemporary cowards prefer to ambush
from behind mai mai twigs.

Understanding Chris' poem

Non-Aboriginal author Chris writes about his poem:

"I have for a while now dallied with the idea of tackling the difficult creative terrain of the Myall Creek massacre in a new and contemporary manner from how it has been poetically depicted in the past.

"An opportunity presented itself with the arrival of the duck-shooting season here. I decided to examine the obsessed and murderous drive of the duck hunters under the guise of 'sports-shooting' and link this aberrant behaviour to the horrendous actions of those eleven stockmen back in 1838 who also were enamoured of 'sports shooting' First Nation people as if they were less than human. These stockmen could be seen as metaphors for colonial pastoralists, police and ilk right throughout the Frontier wars."

  • Wirrayaraay: Aboriginal language group of the people who were murdered at Myall Creek.
  • John Fleming: The only free man involved in the massacre and the leader of the gang. He escaped the investigation and the subsequent prosecution.
  • Cordite: A smokeless explosive made from nitrocellulose, nitroglycerine, and petroleum jelly, used in ammunition.
  • mai mai: (twigs) A New Zealand term for duck shooters' hides, also used in Australia.

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Cite this page

Korff, J 2021, The Black Duck Hunt, <https://www.creativespirits.info/aboriginalculture/arts/poems/the-black-duck-hunt>, retrieved 20 May 2024

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