The Plain – Judi Morison

Where are the trees – belah, blackbox, mayal,
gulubaa hugging the creekline, hiding flocks of gidjirrigaa that
swept up to the    sky
like lightlyshaken blankets?
The native grasses that covered the plain,
gone too
– silky browntop and oatgrass, plains grass and sugar grass –
and who can remember their names?
Pretty-faced wallabies fed there. Now brown snakes
swarm the land. Does Garriya hide for shame
in Boobera?
The cry for the dead in the chill of dawn as embers stirred
to greet the sun, long
the people dispersed.
Who cares for the country now, the Mari
Who sings the country now, its gari, its words, almost
Free water once flowed sweetly from the east
down creeks with waterholes full of fish, and flows
so deep
so cool
that biladurang, the platypus, swam there, and water
spilledout across the plain
to feed the grass with minerals from the east, and bring the
birds again.
That once free flow is stemmed now
by channels,
pumps and
marshalled to feed broad
furrowed acres
as far as eye can see.
A ghostly cash crop guzzles up
the once clear water,
the machines that cull it
– like cattle and sheep before –
fragile cracking clay,
sweet self-mulching
Few people walk this land now.
Will it too go like Cubbie Station
[named for those who walked the land back then]
to make cheap jeans in China?
In 1832, when Mitchell rode the dreaming plains, he found
in its place –
kangaroo, possum, emu,
goanna, bandicoot, blacksnake 
– and the people walked the land that
owned them.
Yet, for all the blood and bone long since sewn,
for all the squatters’ wealth and toil and time,
the land will not be quieted as its
sons and daughters were.
The rains still come – first welcomed
then unwanted –
when the sky is brown as if it always was
and always will be.
Then the waters pay scant heed to channels, pumps, dams but
spread    once    more      across  the       plain,
renewing earth,
and singing up the
birds again.