Lake Mungo


After 110 ks on a red sand track
we move closer to the heart
of abandoned soldier settlements 
broken cattle drays, dry lake beds.

We pass Lake Mungo Lodge-
an oasis of bungalows and trimmed lawn
in semi-arid desert,
where mail arrives weekly
by water-tanker
on a round trip
between Balranald and Ivanhoe,
the driver keeping your bills
in the glovebox
until the next load
of tourists 
fly out.

Our brief is to shoot the dunes
at sunset, frame their shadows
turning ochre, lunar gold.
With a swivelling moviecam,
track the ridges 
of a character's fear.

A heat haze claims the landscape.
The Walls of China hover
and seperate the memory
I'm entering.

The sky drifts off,
dead trees rest where storms deposit us.
I move around our camp site
chasing shadows, watching them twist
across the dirt.

The Walls of China vary
from hardened clay turrets
scarred by westerly winds 
to curving slopes interrupted 
by feral goats.

Gnarled trees cling 
to shifting edges.

Our conversation turns to water,
snakes, childhood.

Here, you can walk for miles
and still be at the centre
of an ancient plain
that cares less for your presence,
your rolls of film
than you care
for a road without billboards.

You need something familiar 
to anchor your thoughts-
a disintegrating relationship
Kundera's Book of Laughter and Forgetting
a photograph of a friend who has died.

In Belah and Rosewood country
shearer's huts have been undermined
by rabbits.

The temperature climbs over 40.
The scrub is alive in silences.
Flies crawl over my sunglasses.

We keep our film in the esky.
A wrinkled rickmelon
is attracting blowflies.
The water container 
is beginning to swell,
something more than light
is falling against us.

Like a kangaroo ramming its head
against a chicken-wire gate
we rush to escape
before rain turns the road
into slush.
The car slides across
the corrugations.
Everything falls from the dashboard.
The windscreen wipers scrape
against our shouts of water,
wanna cigarette, shit look
at those rain clouds!
We drive on,
past a 40s Rolls Royce
facing east- the tyres
shot through with weeds.
The scrub turns
a deep shade of green.
The Walls of China tremble
inside three rolls of film,
their history of bones
recording the contours 
of a landscape eroding,
a sky flaming
over a saltbush plain.

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