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Terra Nullius
for Victoria Dawson


The Marlboro billboards seem to green
for an abattoir.
Marlboro man looks older this year, but gets about,
wears his dead heart
open-cut upon his sleeve,
greets custodians at the airstrip.
The young writer’s poems jangle like camping gear,
wearing hand-me-down boots.
Chirpier than a new four-wheel drive
they go bush, where the inland sea begins.
She sits out the heat with a Salman Rushdie
in a cemetery for dead miners.
she combs her Mohawk, walks and talks.
It was women’s business brought here
to the boneyard of men’s business.
Somewhere half way to Arltunga
coping with immense distance
and depressed parents he telephotos mountains
macros a spinifex pigeon cooing in a prickly nest.
Out Geln Helen way they lilo algal waterholes
that dampen everything inside
they never knew was dry.
At Ormiston scree run and climb a dinosaur’s back
with Bob, snake portraitist and charmer
who’d stuffed his knees this way
one or two marriages back.
In saltpan Terra nullius caravans and Nissan huts,
cask wine transfusions from hole-in-the-wall bars.


Wake in pre-dawn purple. 256 colours.
Residual embers sink back
to the land of Namatjira’s ghost.
From there go abstract, or swear
a dingo took the leftovers.
Flames brighten and fade, the morning’s surplus
clarity turning frost
into dust filled slipstream.
You could drive backwards, in reverse, – forever –
the road ruled straight and narrow
each sand hill urging
the mind towards a moral thought.
All snake and no tail, no head.
Like a roll-your-own open at both ends.
Learn how and why, say please
for every step taken on a pixilated track
across the land. Endless painting.
Enter anywhere. Drivetime talk of
national style. Cowboy, what void was that?
Marlboro man closes the gates.
like an earnest God, when you leave.