3.00 am Copley, South Australia
A single aeroplane
throbs through silence.
their morse erratic.
Awake in our tent
we try to translate
their talk of distance;
their talk of cold.
Salt bush. Blue bush. Blue Smoke.
Roads straight as a perspective line.
Subdued by space
we expected silence,
not knowing how various
the voices of the wind can be
when it goes scouring
rock face and ridge.
It spoke a language
we could not decipher –
a hoarse ululation
from another time.
A broken windmill by a disused well,
rail sleepers rotting, stockyard posts askew.
These aren’t the kind of records this land keeps.
It takes a longer view.
Roadhouse at Ebenezer
An Anangu man points to a map
showing tribal areas. This took six years,
he says, to make. When it was completed,
many complained that their tribe wasn’t on it.
Roast lamb and beer in the bar;
all night, the generator’s rumble.
Behind the campsite hedge,
horses snort and shake
in early sun. On each fencepost,
a magpie provides national coverage.
Consider the opal tailings:
those small, most perfect cones.
They glow silver at dusk –
a spent moonscape mirage;
at midday, a set
made to film Desolation.
People live below ground
to escape from the sky.
The sky knows no limit.
The sun gives no quarter.
Graveyard, Alice Springs
Hot gravel underfoot. Grit in the eyes.
A few graves of the famous – then the rest.
Even in death, distinctions:
the Afghan camelmen, all facing Mecca.
Far out where faint tracks end
their testy camels roam and multiply.
This is a poem that really intrigued me because it is a New Zealander engaging with the Australian outback – and all that that entails.
It is in Kerry's book Leaving The Tableland published by Steele Roberts.