Contemporary Australian Poetry.

Bring it Out by Rosalind McFarlane

Girl, Gambling by Amy Hillhorst

Desert Meditation

by Caitlin Maling



In the Chihuaha what’s human is what you bring,

only solar power, water plastic-shipped-in, propane tanks for heat and food.

The sun has burnt for 4.5 billion years, fallen here for 4 million.

It’s easy to believe the light will outlast us,

glints of metal sands glowing at midday.  At night,

the moon is another stone overturned in the canyon,

the ground cools and the animals you don’t see by day

leave the footprints you find in the morning–

javelinas and coyotes–the difference between ungulate hoof and mammal paw

held by the sand until dusk, when the wind blows

from over the border, over the Rio Grande,

and you don’t see anything anymore. Only sand,

the rough phonemes of what’s beyond the Guadalupe’s

flooding the plains.



Speech is unnecessary to song. The vermilion flycatchers rise

from the sosol to migrate south. The sky is the desert

we haven’t figured out how to colonise yet.

What use is a border to the desert? How to separate

one grain of sand in a dry river bed from the next?

The heat rises over the rockface, the edges of stone and sky blur

pink, orange, yellow, until both work down to ink.


A stone can skip in two

the river that runs through the Boccaccillo’s Canyon.

But when it floods, the plains fill and the border widens

so the tops of the yucca are the only flags,

green and greener the only nations.



From the plane, flying to Alice Springs,

the difference between the Great Sandy and Little Sandy deserts

cannot be quantified in sand

but in how the shrub unfurls in widening circles,

a slow linear gradation of vegetation.

At the top of Kings Canyon, you imagine

a line between WA and the Rock.

On the surface high above the desert,

the fossilized remains of strombolites

indicate this once was an ocean. In the stone,

the patterns of a sea hold.


Land does not age like people: It gets smoother;

it does not rust in water-it polishes.

Land outlasts what we call it.

Caitlin Maling is a Western Australian poet whose first collection Conversations I’ve Never Had will be published by Fremantle Press in February 2015. Her work can be found, or is forthcoming, in Best Australian Poems, Australian Book Review, Westerly, Green Mountains Review, Threepenny, Australian Poetry and Meanjin, among others. This year she was shortlisted for the Judith Wright Poetry Prize and won the Harri Jones Memorial Award of the Newcastle Poetry Prize. She holds an MPhil in Criminological Research from Cambridge University and an MFA in poetry from the University of Houston. She has lived the past three years in Texas.