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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 10, Number 4, December 2016
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Marilyn Humbert
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


Long Paddock

We camp beside the Dumaresq River. About a mile out of Texas on the border between New South Wales and Queensland. It’s winter. Days are wide-blue, sun warm as melting butter and an occasional cotton-fluff cloud drifts near the horizon. At night, the temperature plummets. We wake to frost-iced leaves, grass shattering underfoot.

bushland bright
with wattle-yellow
the river
crawls ancient lands
once belonging to others

At dusk and dawn gangs of cockatoos announce arrival and departure with raucous squawks. Kookaburras join in, laughing, from thick girthed, river gumtrees, scarred with some limbs missing dropped with drought thirst or after heavy flooding rains. Green crowns line the banks among stands of thin, tall black-barked pines. Kangaroos and emu graze unconcerned.

We sit by our campfire. Smoke circles a full moon and wind cradles tales of old, men, dogs, cattle and the stock routes.

between trees
and native grasses
jackaroos,
cattle, dust, blue dogs,
and red dogs yapping

whips crack
across the Downs
drovers
herding cattle
through the long paddock


Author's Notes:

"Blue dogs"—Queensland blue heelers, "red dogs"—Australian kelpies.

"Long paddock"—stock route to rail heads for markets or roadside grazing in times of drought.

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