Dona Samson Zappone

Dona was born in Malaysia of Sri Lankan parents. She migrated to Australia in 1981. Her work has appeared in Poetry Without BordersSun and Sleet Zinewest, Reunion WEA Poetry Project, Auburn Letters Zinewest, She has exhibited her artworks and design, and has a short film and a play to her credit.







Muddy River (Malaysia)



a crocodile slides through the muddy river,
sampans glide with commuters
each stroke of the paddle closer and closer to shore
mangrove trees, their branches grasp like giant octopus
dance against the muddy river banks.
the river flows swiftly gathering dead branches
rubbish, household items, timber, gliding with the tide
this river once our childhood haven of mudcrabs and fishing
shimmers in the early morning sunshine
boats tied against the docks
now bob up and down in the murky water
an old wizened man sits, smoking a cheroot
watching fascinated, reminiscing the wonders of the river
a tourist boat advertising, ‘api-api’ tour of the mangrove swamp
is getting ready with his preparations for the night tourist
a shopkeeper is wiping down the outdoor tables and chairs
while Chinese music from a radio kills the serenity of the peaceful day
its just another day on the river in Kota Tinggi of my childhood.


api-api: fireflies        sampan: canoe


a ragged group of refugees
stood on a high roof waving a white sheet, like a flag-
‘freedom, freedom!’ they chanted in Persian, Dari, Urdu
Pashto an Africaan, in Indonesian and Vietnamese
 some wrenched the metal bars apart
others threw blankets over the razor sharp fences,
they climbed and squeezed through
to jump and hurl themselves into the crowd and run
from the arms of the waiting police
sewing their lips in protest
on hunger strikes for several days
queue jumpers, illegals, rejectees,
they were herded like animals
easier controlled and forgotten
they were locked away, questioned, watched and punished
long months of being detained inside this barred prison
                                                it had taken its toll
                                                brave, desperate, lucky?
                                                they risked all to find freedom
now stateless without a future
did they have a right for their freedom?
just because they spoke in tongues
did they have to be locked up like criminals?
there were women, children, young and old 
waiting for release from a nightmare called
‘W o o m e r a’