Maxine Beneba Clarke

he calls them

              union thugs


              the prime minister-unelect

who got the job with a dirty knife

and a smug lopsided smile


              a small-hearted bully

who will only fight

to keep queer thoughts out of godly schools

and implores a nation to celebrate genocide


the man with a shiny death-trophy on his desk

screaming welfare is a free ride


              union thugs


  but we remember

  how they felled

              the giants


back when working childbirth

was a let-down into lactose-stained uniform

sobbing as you fixed your hair

heart sighing

and a howling babe in arms

              every leaving morning


            union thugs

got our working mothers

twelve newborn months at home

not a dollar

or a day longer

              but at least a job on their return

we remember


how pilbara stockmen walked off how coal

workers galvanised how shearers

downed their tools


the migrant workers

who broke the factory line

              out at broadmeadows ford


tired of no-break pay-dock

disrespect and falling ill

from their sweat-shop



how straight-backed cops

charged their bucking horses 

              into picket lines

but the car-part workers

stood their ground


              union thugs all

              union thugs all


we remember

how we watched



Maxine Beneba Clarke is the author of The Hate Race and Foreign Soil. She is a winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry.