August 2005

Arts & Letters

Drought essay: A levitation of land

By Les Murray

Haze went from smoke-blue to beige

gradually, after midday.

The Inland was passing over

high up, and between the trees.

The north hills and the south hills

lost focus and faded away.


As the Inland was passing over

lungless flies quizzing road kill

got clogged with aerial plaster.

Familiar roads ended in vertical

paddocks unfenced in abstraction.

The sun was back to animating clay.


The whole ploughed fertile crescent

inside the ranges’ long bow

offered up billion-tonne cargo

compound of hoofprints and debt,

stark street vistas, diesel and sweat.

This finest skim of drought particles 


formed a lens, fuzzy with grind,

a shield the length of Northern Europe

and had the lift of a wing

which traffic of thermals kept amassing

over the mountains. Grist the shade

of kitchen blinds sprinkled every scene.


A dustbowl inverted in the sky

shared the coast out in bush-airfield sizes.

A surfer from the hundred acre sea

landed on the beach’s narrow squeak

and re-made his home town out of pastry.

A sense of brown snake in the air


and dogs whiffed, scanning their nosepaper.

Teenagers in the tan foreshortening

regained, for moments, their child voices,

and in double image, Vanuatu to New Zealand

an echo-Australia gathered out on the ocean

having once more scattered itself from its urn.

Les Murray

Les Murray is an award-winning Australian poet with more than 30 published collections of work, including Taller When ProneThe Biplane HousesWaiting for the Past and The Best 100 Poems of Les Murray. His work has been translated into ten foreign languages.

Cover: August 2005

August 2005

From the front page

Turnbull’s last stand

The Liberals took Australia right to the edge of a constitutional crisis

Image of Phurpa at Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo 2019: The Dirty Three and Phurpa

Two bands conjure different degrees of devilishness on a Sunday in Hobart

‘The Essential Duchamp’ at the Art Gallery of NSW

A comprehensive exhibition of the 20th century’s most influential artist

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Vanishing voices

The cultural damage of homogenising language

In This Issue

Drought essay: Recognising the derision as fear

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.


The true daughter

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Sarah has an interview

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Family feud

A firsthand view of the nation’s new political faultlines

Image of poker machines

The lie of ‘responsible gambling’

Australia’s world-beating gambling addiction and the deception hiding it

Image of bouncy castle

The case of the bouncy castle bombings

An arson spree and a missing party-hire boss

Image of Bill Shorten on election night, May 18 2019

The Morrison election: What we know now

Why did low-income voters turn to the Coalition while wealthy urbanites voted Labor?

Read on

Image of Phurpa at Dark Mofo

Dark Mofo 2019: The Dirty Three and Phurpa

Two bands conjure different degrees of devilishness on a Sunday in Hobart

Image of the University of Sydney


The Australian’s crusade on free speech in universities

Image of Quarterly Essay 74, ‘The Prosperity Gospel’, by Erik Jensen

Everymen don’t exist

On the campaign trail with Scott Morrison and Bill Shorten – a Quarterly Essay extract

Image from ‘Fleabag’

Falling for ‘Fleabag’

On the problematic hotness of Andrew Scott’s Hot Priest