Natalie D-Napoleon

Natalie D-Napoleon is from Fremantle, Australia. Her writing has appeared in Southerly, Westerly, Meanjin, Griffith Review, and Australian Poetry Journal. In 2018 she won the Bruce Dawe National Poetry Prize. Her debut poetry collection First Blood will be released by Ginninderra press in 2019.


Black Swan
Dedicated to those who continue to fight for the preservation of the Beeliar wetlands

I pluck from my
ribs one black feather
then another three
arise in its place.
I remember feeding bread
to the black swans with
my father as a child
at Bibra Lake, how ripping
off one chunk would bring
a bank of swans; a
magnet through the
sand to attract iron ore.
My shoulders itch,
spines of feathers
spiking through skin.
I flap my arms, not yet
ready to fly. The Noongar
throw a handful of sand
into a body of water,
speak language,
let the Waugal
know we are here.
Now, we live in the time
of the Mass Forgetting.
Now, bulldozers come
to scrape and wrench
the earth clean for
another road-to-nowhere,
road-to-nowhere, road-
to-nowhere…Fists full
of sand pour into the lake
but there is no ceremony,
only the low din and vibration
of con-struction/de-struction.
I remain the good wife;
I whistle to my cygnets,
I flap my wings three times,
honk and hiss at the
golden demon —
rara avis in terris
nigroque simillima
cygno. My fleshy lips turn
into a keratin-skin bill,
flag-red, a memory:
eagles wrenching
arrogant white feathers;
falling, falling, falling.
A sepulchral cloak of
black loaned from
a saviour of ravens.
The white tips remain
on my wings, tracks of
my fall marked by stars of
flannel flowers. Kooldjak,
gooldjak, maali you will call
my Name. Even if you deny
my existence I continue:
a wedge of obsidian wings
beating beneath the
land’s surface.

*Kooldjak, gooldjak, maali — “black swan” in various Noongah languages.