The Rats of The Rocks, Sydney 1900

Issue ElevenIssue Eleven PoetryPoetry

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by Rob McKinnon


Surreptitious stowaways 

to the flourishing city 

hiding in groaning ships 

from contaminated ports. 

Finding prosperous homes 

in the filth and effluent  

of wooden wharves, 

then boundless opportunity in grimy hovels and refuse of timber and corrugated iron shanty slums that proliferated near the waterfront. 

The rats just the unwary carriers of the infecting fleas 

who vigorously thrived in the wet and warm autumn, 

finding horrid banquets  

in the inhabitants of the squalid poverty. The bubonic plague 

causing grim deaths  and panicked fear for many months.