The black virgin

There are bodies lying face down in
the river, black bodies face down in the river, three, five, ten of them, some
bobbing close to the shore, others further from the edge, almost as if someone has
laid out a raft of black boulders across the surface of the river, stepping
stones that I might glide across to get from one side to the other.  But I am too terrified to move.
I lean against the curved trunk of
a river gum branch that throws itself across the water and try to hide even as
I catch glimpses of the naked bodies floating down the river.  Their long wavy hair and slender
outlines suggest to me that they are women, young women, all of them I know have somehow been raped first then tossed aside to drown in the river. 
This is my dream.  I who live in the south eastern corner of Australia and rarely if ever catch sight of a full blown aboriginal, I dream of
their massacre.
 Landscape typical of my dream without the water. 
Among the many times when we left
home to escape my father’s drunken outbursts there was a time when we stayed in my
older brother’s flat in Hawthorn. 
He left for work early in the morning to his job with a commercial
printer and we four kids, we middle children, had to fend for ourselves for the
There were many such days in my
childhood memory, days when we had nothing to do, no plans, no money, no home
base from which to move, stuck in someone else’s house where we were required
to amuse ourselves with books or card games, or conversation and walks
We should not eat too much – a
single sandwich for lunch, a cup of tea.  My brother’s cupboard was that of
a single bachelor who cared little for eating at home.
The flat was situated in an old red
brick house, split level, one step down to an old linoleum kitchen.  I spent part of my time walking up and
down between the kitchen and living room examining the few objects my brother
He had carved a head
out of a lump of wood, his own head like a death mask, a self
There was also a book, with whose title I
associate my dream, Bony and the Black Virgin.  On the back cover I read she was a ‘lubra’, this
black virgin.  The word virgin had
long troubled me, a word from religion, the blessed virgin, a word that had a
hands off feel though I still did not know what it meant other than that it
suggested someone young, a young woman. 
How did someone lose her virginity?
I wondered.  Was it like losing your purse, or your train ticket, or something else
that might be important as a means of getting about in the world? 
I had none of these things to begin
with.  We had stolen our way here
on the train, avoided buying a ticket because we did not have enough money and
I had no money to put in a purse let alone owned a purse that could hold
How could I even find my
virginity enough to one day lose it?