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 was 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.

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