Monday, December 21, 2009



How big the Queensland property?


The city mind is told in numbers and forgets.  

Its breath and heart cannot imagine or measure them

written as they are into the smell of cattle and earth,

the taste of dust.


From my office I would see cattle stretched

in numbers over plains, under gum trees.

I would be there to disturb their solitude,

and with voice or stick, walk and hurry them over numbers

of hours,

and count them at the baked wooden yards at end of day.


I would catch the train out, past the city’s last idling houses

through hours of trees to a tiny town,

to the pick-up ute and leaning stockman who drove

down dirt roads to the homestead, its eiderdown

of stars, the cup of tea, the rough mattress, then oblivion.


I would wake newborn to the smell of dirt rolled out

by the sun, catch my horse and with the smell of horse,

leather and dirt, ride to the cattle.


How many numbers the homestead paddock?


Plenty, and easy to be lost……

Once young musterers left me

for the thrill to chase some native animal. I shouted.

I rode in circles.

I waited, listened, but only heard the wind gentle

in the trees.


I had lost the numbers of time and cattle,

and rode my horse until my bottom ached,

led him until my feet ached, rode him, led him.

I hoped he would take me home, as horses do,

or to water, as horses can,

but he seemed not to know.


The three dogs stayed. They played.

They sniffed amongst gum-flavoured leaves

and clutches of grass at the base of trees,

jumped scrub to chase hares and wallabies.


The sun wouldn’t stop shining.

The numbers of trees kept advancing.

None would cramp to feed on the flesh of a creek.

My mind slipped amongst them.

My canvas waterbag swung empty from my saddle.

We all bled salt.


At dusk we found a shallow creek.

We lined up and drank the brown water,

heaved our lungs, blew out our bellies,

then, heads low, followed.

The wind smoothed the heat on our bodies,

but not my anxieties.

I expected a night curled between saddle flaps;


but then the gate, the hoof-marked, tyre-marked track

to the homestead,

for me, brown, bland and beautiful,

a statement over undisciplined country,

a statement of people who must work with the outdoors,

who take risks.


I wanted to belong, to chase the numbers.


                        Caroline Glen © October 09

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