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Near Balgo

The locals sit round the boab tree

with beef and beer and electric music

they watch the day fall into the horizon.

Along the road are worn shoes and wrecked cars

and the sites of ancient miracles

reseen with damaged eyes.

Ranger Dan has gotten too close to the sun

his face is burnt and blistered

he has lost pieces of ear and nose.

He roams the Great Sandy Desert in his Toyota

searching for minerals and shade

retracing his own dim beginning in the landscape.

Donkeyman picks up a rusty pipe

that leans against the boab

blows into it like a tuba.

The song of an animal’s body and soul being born

is itself born from the pipe

as clouds stretch and hunch into goannas and emus.

Etched in the walls of skulls

the geography of lumpy hills and murky waterholes

reveals ancestral footprints.

Ranger Dan’s map gets more crowded year by year it fills with useful details is a work in progress.

Muntja sighs with all her weight

slaps a tired hand down on her painting

which is a map of a story.

The other old women laugh

their flat breasts shake to the tale of a gang of women

who raped and dismembered a trespassing man.

Ranger Dan has dug so deep in visceral ore

his nose bleeds so deep his ears ache

so deep he dreams the orange earth.

Donkeyman says the termites are hard at work

their spiky red towers are moist and musical

their journeys were written by the ancestors too.


Michael Pearce’s poetry has appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Yale Review, Nimrod, The Sun, Spillway, and elsewhere, and has won several national prizes (New Ohio Review, Oberon, Dogwood, and others). His collection of poems, Santa Lucia by Starlight, won the Brighthorse Prize.


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