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The Tissue Act 

Bone-shuffler says,

“Exhibit 1214.2, - You’re going home”,

strokes my rubbed-bare, folded fur-pelt goodbye.


Gentle hands, him and Name-makers hands.

They touch us all, sometimes with their

careful hands, casual hands,

patient, tracker hands;

scenting and stalking our

bumps and folds and cracks and polished bone.

Taboo hands, breaking hands, lawless hands.

Terrible hands, him. 


Strong magic, me-  and Uncle here longside.

Name-maker calls ‘talisman’.

Powerful magic for our kin,

bound in bark and wallaby skin, round the neck worn.

Sickness he’ll go, Death, he’ll wait long, while we’re nearby.


Powerful, all of us- more powerful in death:

Warrior-Strength, Totem of King,

Bringer of Sons, Bone-Spirit-Make-Plenty-Fish,


No magic here- in boxes crushed.

No dreaming here- in tissue weak, wrapped.

No power-

We’re spirits made small

with new names on charms called tags:

‘skull’, ‘pointed stick’,

‘bangle of bone’, ‘fish-hook’,

‘packet of ash’…


The Bone- shuffler says,

“Its sad- one hundred and sixty years you've rested here

not visited by even a wandering ghost.

Now they’ve gone and passed The Tissue Act you have to go”

And I say,

“ A ghost, yes. At rest, no.”


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