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Exploration in mallee

“A load on each spirit, a cloud o’er each soul
With eyes that could scan not, our destiny’s scroll”
~ Ernest Giles crossing the Great Victoria Desert
 
Waterless expanse of spinifex and mallee
tangles of stems and branches assailed them
as the caravan of white men moved on
 
The face of the desert was sand and scrub
by increment and with fortitude the ships
of the desert padded faithfully along
 
Jangling bells, and squeaking leather
timed the passage meditatively together
through the timbers of endless description
they crept through the maze on a mission
 
Multi-stemmed whipstick mallees appeared
so dense they had to squeeze through them
and the giant flowered sprawling thing appeared
to be named after Jess Young, expedition member
but he had no knowledge of this or its native name
the white man must make his own names for everything
when the spinifex people, Pila Nguru, name as needed
and these djanak or white spirits want to be first to it
climbing over sacred places they think they discovered
well that’s the way they are, that’s just white man stuff
 
Water drove the explorers further on in a daze
dreaming of rain, rivers and verdant far off days
Saleh, the afghan camel man said ‘Mr Gile, the water
Where is it?’ To that he replied to the cameleer,
‘There’s no water in this country,
 I didn’t come into the desert for water; I came into the desert to die’
 
Then later they would find other mallees like rameliana
in the Little Sandy Desert on a return visit
beyond the Alfred and Marie Ranges was the location
but where was it and unfound it was presumed extinct
 
Was it Opthalmia or Laudanum or madness we think?
hidden in the desert sands for over a hundred years
until dramatically rediscovered by an eccentric old man
out in the dunes chasing wild camels across the sand
I held the paper bag with the seeds we collected fresh
from the lost flowering mallee that was found alive
 
And on the 30th day Tommy the Aboriginal guide
let out a yell from the best bull camel he got to ride
there amongst a mosaic of mallee below high dunes
a miniature lake, an oasis, water not seen for 300 miles
 

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