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SONG OF THIEVES

1. "We are forced to pull our left ear with our right hand,   and our right ear with our left hand.   We work as, in ancient times, Comrade Aesop worked.  It is a stunt. But what else can we do?"       blatnaya pesnya  (underworld song)       bardovskaya pesnya (bard song)       avtorskaya pesnaya  (author's song)                                         (guitar poetry)                                         (songs to seven strings)                                         ( magnitizdat ) "It is possible to come across recordings made domestically on deficient equipment.  There is usually considerable surface noise and distortion of sound;  (Repeated copying on different machines causes quite wide variations in tape speed,    rendering a voice unrecognisable, converting a baritone into gabbling contralto).  There is a range of assorted clunks and pops as the mike is shifted or bumped.  And persistent background noise, like vehicles passing in the street outside,  or t

Ooldea

Long before the days of white-man Ooldea Water was a refuge in times of severe drought and distress. Yuldi  belonged to Kokata ; southern Mirning  and Wirangu , northern Ngalea  and Pindini , came in for water and barter; pituri , ochre, flint, nulu . Around the Soak lay scatters of stone tool making that speak of trade  and related matters. Of particular interest are the black glassy stones called  nulu            called meteorites            called tektites            called australites            called nulu medicine stones death pointers sacred stones magic stones rain makers charm stones message stones circumcisers punishment stones healing stones barter stones. Droplets of siliceous glass, a mystery. Little enigmas strewn like fossil raindrops over the Nullarbor Plain. Sky-stones fallen from the Sky-world.       Kabbarli : grandmother, Miss Daisy 'These moonless nights when the stars are at their brightest and even Magellan's Clouds take on a warmth and a shimmer from  th

Nullarbor Nymph

Dorothy Hewett gets it right, the inviting madness of the desert, where we expect to meet a mad old woman dressed in black pushing an English pram a nun with a walking stick a woman with a string of camels mirages floating in heat a foot above the ground visitants lost on the scrubby  horizon where no line marks the possible. Nullarbor is the place we go when there is nowhere else. We came to a fork in the track. Old Eyre Highway or Old Coach Road? Our choice was less travelled. When the hot sun was dipping Wild-life started emerging from their day-time hideaways. A mob of kangaroos bounded across. Then a girl. We hadn't seen anyone in days. But there she was. When the roos caught sight of us, they took off into the scrub. The girl stopped dead, 100 yards in front of us. A curious but hard look on her face. She didn't blink, and for a second, none of us dared to move. Her blond hair moved very slightly in the evening breeze. Suddenly, bare-footed, she darted to the left. We sat

Oondiri

  Somewhere there, just short of Eucla I saw two figures to the left Edward Eyre and 'faithful Wylie' between the highway and the cliffs forward-tilting, sweating on foot slogging it out through the calf-length scrub In their mute, enduring madness 'to accomplish our object  or perish in the attempt' Pressing on, confident that 'this land had never before  been trodden by civilized man  and from its nature is  never likely to be so again' a terror of emptiness nullus arbor : an absence of verticals tabula rasa : featureless, flat, blank meaning-melting monotony collapsing precarious structures of self Yirkala-Mirning call it Oondiri the waterless Europeans call it No Mans Land. The explorer was young, but not without Knowledge. Ahead of them loomed three fearful pushes westward, desperate stages for five men and their horses. From this first water at the Head of the Bight to the second water beyond the eastern cliffs to the third water before the western cliffs

THE SNOWY

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  1.  Flying In Under you, Australia is a broad unmade bed, hills pleating, folding, the high Murray sleeving and webbing, Kosciusko hump-shouldered around its last of snow, and further mountains dissolving in their blue stream. "Here where red dust rose  To raddle sheep and men  Silence has come again.  The great-boled gums bow  Beneath their load of snow.  Printless the white road lies  Before my quiet skis.  Now in this winter passage  I cross the deserted stage." So spoke the grazier-poet Looking back. He knew 'On the high plains by Dairyman  The paper daisies grow  That lock the sunlight in their palm  As they go under snow  Where summer-time and Dairyman  Talking themselves to sleep.' He knew 'Flower of the snowline  The rare snow buttercup  Comes spare and early, braving ice,  Cool bride of winter...  These snow-white buttercups  Whose silence is alive with watersounds.' Knowing these details it is no surprise he missed The Snowy Mountains Hydro-electri