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Photo of Uluru / Ayers Rock by the Poet

Uluru / Ayers Rock

The winter outback chill of mid-Julys
Cuts to the bone as waning suns conspire
To send their sparks through darkening cobalt skies
That set the Dreamtime Uluru on fire.

The silent, preternatural display
Is backlit by a silvered sentinel
Whose spherical, unblinking eye holds sway
Above the supine sandstone citadel.

For Aṉangu, sacred Uluru
Is where the Pitjantjatjara had their birth,
A dwelling place for primal spirits who
Yet bless the rock and sanctify the earth.

Such feet as mine no longer climb or stand
On rock now touched by only eye and hand.

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Poet’s Note: Uluru is the name given by indigenous people to the famous, monolithic sandstone rock that rises above the outback desert in central Australia. Its Western European name is Ayers Rock and its officially sanctioned geographical name today is Uluru/Ayers Rock. Aṉangu (pronounced Á-n-án-gu) is the self-referenced name for the several indigenous aboriginal tribes in Central Australia with Uluru and its surroundings being the ancestral home of the Pitjantjatjara people. It is no longer permitted to climb the rock.

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Photos from Australia by the Poet

A Bush Poem

for David Watt

The day was hot and dusty as I followed on the track
In my ute, all worn and rusty from its years in the outback.
From the station into town I had been marking a good pace.
I had rolled both windows down and felt the hot breeze on my face

The road was rough and metaled when my left front tyre blew air
But before the dust had settled, I was putting on a spare.
Up ahead I saw a cloud of dust a hundred meters high,
Like a funeral parlor shroud it spread its wings across the sky.

As I clenched my fists each knuckle turned to white from what I feared,
And the ground began to buckle as the four-car road train neared.
Like the Bluebird on Lake Eyre at record speed it came my way
When its horn began to blare at near one hundred twenty K.

I could see it was bad luck because it bore a heavy load
As it passed it blew my truck and me completely off the road.
The window-shield was broken where my ute lay on its side,
And my cursing was loud-spoken, but for God, I could have died.

With bloodshot eyes I peered in awe and as I swore and cussed
The road-train disappeared behind its trailing cloud of dust,
I knew it could be days before I saw another soul,
And although it was a-ways, I had no choice except to stroll.

It was midnight by the time I reached the town of Broken Hill,
As I shook off dust and grime, I bought a beer and paid my bill.
If there’s one thing bushmen know, in every trouble, trial or strife,
No matter how things go, the answer’s always, “Such is life.”

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James A. Tweedie is a retired pastor living in Long Beach, Washington. He has written and published six novels, one collection of short stories, and three collections of poetry including Mostly Sonnets, all with Dunecrest Press. His poems have been published nationally and internationally in The Lyric, Poetry Salzburg (Austria) Review, California Quarterly, Asses of Parnassus, Lighten Up Online, Better than Starbucks, WestWard Quarterly, Society of Classical Poets, and The Chained Muse.


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6 Responses

  1. Jeff Eardley

    James, two great travellers tales. It must have been a magical experience to visit Uluru, unlike the frightening bush poem that unravels like a great movie. I am puzzled at the lack of braking on the road train, to save a fellow traveller in this harsh terrain.
    I need a cool beer after reading these. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. James A. Tweedie.

    Jeff, My imitation Bush Poem follows the tradition of presenting an exaggerated, over-the-top fictional parody of something that COULD have happened but, in this case, didn’t. The flat tire took place just outside of Coober Pedy and when the Road Train came by later, the driver of the ute (who was the son of a friend) pulled off the road to avoid the flying rock and gravel that were thrown up by the 28+ large tires rolling past at high speed!

    Flat tires are so common there were three spares in the bed of the ute. I timed the tire change which took less than three minutes.

    Reply
    • Jeff Eardley

      James, you have punctured my image of a mean, tough, American hombre. You will be telling me next that Johnny Depp is not what he seems. Best wishes and thanks again for a great read today.

      Reply
  3. David Watt

    James, it is great to read your “A Bush Poem” once more. The dust, distance, and character of the outback have been adroitly captured. Thanks very much for taking the time to write this piece in the expansive Bush Poetry style, and for the personal reference.
    Your description of Uluru, and what it represents is spot-on.

    Reply
    • James A. Tweedie

      David,

      Many thanks for taking my efforts to be a compliment rather than a national insult since, of course, the former of the two was my intent in writing both poems! Bush poetry: the most entertaining of all poetic forms, topping American cowboy poetry through the Aussie version’s essential internal complexity and unbroken narrative. Quite a challenge. A tradition you are preserving with your own authentic and entertaining verse. You see, it wasn’t Paterson or Lawson who inspired me to write my heh poem . . . it was you! And my having lived there for a year may have given my effort just a hint of street cred!

      Reply
  4. Margaret Coats

    James, thanks for both your poems, and for these few notes on the style of Australian bush poetry. Thanks to David Watt, I have probably seen more of it than of American cowboy poetry. Although I do take considerable interest in the varied kinds of lyric, no one can comprehend them all. Learning about a genre is far easier when two known poets produce entertaining work in it. And what a photographer you are to snap that gorgeous picture of Uluru at an auspicious moment of the day and month!

    Reply

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