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Article
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Friday Features
Friday Poetry
Poetry

Poetry | Chain up

—1969, Commonwealth Building, Melbourne

 

Zelda D’Aprano held onto the chain

with the devotion of a worker

who sifted through the words of bosses

to find that reason

to obey, she held the chain

with the ease of a woman

holding a handbag

of unfair payslips, she held the chain

with the strength of her father’s will

to survive the Nazis

and the drive

of her mother’s hope

to share our burdens.

 

Zelda was naturally tall,

but that day she towered

over the twelve-storey building

filled with servants

padlocked by her chain

to the Green Latrine

of artificial light, data birthing,

lift-well sinking,

she became their warden

of warning, locking them

into their doubts,

daring them to peek from their cubicles,

to unbutton their stiff white-collars

to use the escape door and walk down

in single file with a murmur

turning into a chant of Equal Pay

is a Human Right as they meet 

Zelda holding up 

One Rate Only.

 

Prometheus was chained to the mountain

while Zelda chained herself

both of them daring to share

a necessity,

equality is the ancient fire,

and she too has been punished by gods

using batons to bash women

wearing a chain locked

to the Ladies’ ‘grille’.

 

Zelda became a photograph

of one woman

with stirring gaze,

in smart coat and black pumps,

holding the placard as one mirror

to all workers – look closer she says

I’m not alone,

see the other me.

 

Note: this poem commemorates the recent announcement of a statue to honour equal pay advocate Zelda D’Aprano on behalf of the Victorian Trades Hall Council. 

 

 

Overland’s Friday Features project is supported by the Copyright Agency’s Cultural Fund.

 

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Angela Costi is on the land of the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. The author of five poetry collections, her most recent is An Embroidery of Old Maps and New. In 2021, City of Melbourne creative development funding is enabling her to work on a new suite of poetry with the working title: The Heart of the Advocate.

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Comments

  1. Powerful poem and not polemic. Making the issue live as well as the lines. great poem. And Zelda was too!

  2. A beautiful poem, and it’s so great to see it published in Overland to commemorate Zelda!

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