even quarter-sawn
like a sliced Queen
Victoria cake the Casuarina
lacks the grain
of English oak
the dressed shine
of officers in uniform

but seasoned the unruly timber
can add lustre
and turned as a walking stick
decorate a gentleman’s style

the hard wood is prized
as a fence post or tool handle
and burned hot
produces a pure white
ash ideal for sheet whitening
or mixing with fat
and scented as a makeshift soap

the tree was favoured
by blacks for boomerangs shields and clubs
and beneath a stand
free of undergrowth and snakes
the women kept their children
while eating the trees’ nuts and grubs
they soaked the inner bark
gargling against toothache
and collected the oozing sap
to be warmed and melted before eating

the blacks could cook anything

Phillip Hall

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