Out in the sandhills .
I am going down, down to the salt lake edge. Head further north on foot. I begin to read sand. Someone has walked here this morning with a big heavy dog, rabbits have been out all night, young bucks fighting. Rain has made the sand run. A fox marked territory, shit on stone. I look for the mob I saw last time, a buck taller than a man and his small mob of does. Here doe tracks. Stop. A joey has left the pouch. I follow for a while. When I look up I am out in it, out away from it, on top, 180 degrees of sky. Clouds: dark wet and luminous white. Light falls with shafts of rain. The Flinders steel grey, Tent hills solid black. Sand, sky, horizon all damp. One year back same spot: land of the dead. Drought wrung the life out of natives; nothing moved only prickly pear on a slow march. Now: land of the living. Moss is lime, skirts every bush. Pig face pink tipped. Samphire purple. Cane grass lush. Spinafex set to bloom. Through it all lone blowfly makes a low level buzz.
Last year in the sandhills I saw the camp of a man. First I saw his smoke. When I reached the top of the hill I saw him standing staring into his fire. I dropped down, ducked low skirted the camp, hoped he did not have a dog. Nothing can hurt you in the Australian bush, my father’s bush lore told me, except men.
Today I wanted to see if he was still there and if not look at his camp. I pulled down track markers as I walked, bits of white rag tied to bushes with blue string. Motor bike riders use markers sometimes but I felt these were for the bush camp. If you don’t love these hills enough to know where you are going you don’t deserve to be here was my bitter rationale.I found the camp. Deserted. Set hard against a cut away sand dune, a niche had been hacked into the side of the hill a place for sleeping out of the wind now filled with buck bushes. They had been placed there but I couldn’t work out why. There was a table and a chair and a lounge chair all overturned and ruined. The remnants of a tent were strung between the two tall pittosporums, a fire place filled with half burnt cans, egg cartons, meat packaging and stones. Sheets of iron. The neck of a Wild Turkey bottle and a broken syringe. A plastic bottle with Home Brand cordial written on it in black texta, some junk mail and a West End Draught carton dissolving into sand. He had dug himself a short long drop with a drum over the top and a plastic seat. He had wiped his arse with newspaper. There was an overturned cupboard and a rotting mattress. A coat falling back to threads hung in the trees. An ironing board frame crumpled on the ground.
Blokes just out of prison sometimes camped in the sandhills or the desert people down from the north. But this had been a whitefella, married to the bottle, taking his relationship to another level.
I met the mother of my first lover
in the dairy products aisle we chat
I remember the first time
he took me
in a swag
my open eyes
absorbed the sky
hard star light
dim on black dam water
cattle shuffled in the yard
a dingo close by
the thin unbroken howl