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In Search of the Meelup Mallee

Heading south, windscreen wipers
frantic, breaking waves of runoff 
beneath Mandjoogoordap Drive.
 
There is only one stand of the Meelup Mallee
and that is at a secret location near XX
200 kilometres south of Perth.

Stereo silence, listening
to rain drumming against glass,
windows down for cold blasts of frog song,
the river breaks paddocks into lakes.
 
Development of a scenic lookout (between 1955 and 1966)
destroyed an unknown number of ramets.
 
Shafts of light between clouds
illuminate dazzling white geese
paddling amongst death
lilies on moss green grass,
cows perch upon tufts of grass
in drowned paddocks.
 
A carpark has been removed
from around the base of the Meelup Mallee,
the soil ploughed up.

Rain slays the road, pooling in gullies,
the supermarket is deserted, a single checkout
operator shivers in her beanie and scarf.
The tourist bureau manager has never heard
of Meelup Mallee. She types it into her search engine.
 
Scientists say the stand, which is derived
from one seedling, is more than 30m in diameter.
It is thought to have been in existence
for 6,300 years, the end of the Ice Age.
 
A mother and small child steer a surfboard
through the breaks at Meelup Beach.
This kind of rain is on/off. Think five minute
dumps of zero visibility, ten minutes
of clarity on rotation.

A family group of surfers float off
the point like a pod of seals,
turning their wet-suited arms into pale aqua
crests before one of them, a young girl,
turns shoreward, pumping her board
along the curve of a breaker until it
subsides back into the sea.

Attempts are now being made at the Kings Park
laboratory to clone the Meelup Mallee.

The Elders taught us to rub a handful
of sand between our palms, or scrape
a swatch of our sweat from our armpits
and toss it onto the water so the country can smell us.
So it can recognise us, we should call out our names.
 
But we are newcomers here,
looking for an ancient who can’t discern our scent.
We scan the Meelup Ridge, a tangled patch
of names, buds, stamens, calyx,
from where the moon rises across the ocean.
Ridiculous to assume we are not lost 
to a tree we do not recognise,
that has never met us before.
 

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