Burke & Wills Web
The online digital research archive of expedition records
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by Anne Howard, © 1993.

Poetrix, No 1, November 1993.
Melbourne: Footscray Community Arts Centre. p. 9.

Burke and Wills would have hated it.
Complaining of thirst,
the sun in her eyes,
a headache from the heat,
and couldn't we just sit awhile in the shade?


They'd have gone no further than the border,
where, tired of her nagging,
her petulance and sulking,
they'd have struck camp for a while,
pitched the tent,
boiled the billy,
She'd have dangled her feet in the river,
washed the grime from under her fingernails,
and wetting the corner of her handkercheif,
discreetly wiped the sweat from her cleavage.


After a day or two,
when they suggested it was time to move on,
she'd have found excuses:
another letter to write
and who knew when they'd be able to mail it,
or, more bluntly,
her blisters, sunburn, headache
wasn't quite right yet, and after all
what was the hurry,
the Great Interior would still be there tomorrow.



Under a tree, trailing her fingers in the water,
a copy of 'My Brilliant Career' propped open on her knees,
she stayed
Burke and Wills left,
promised they'd see her soon,
a quick dash to the Gulf
and they'd be back.



If only she'd gone with them.
She would have been their fatigue guage,
their canary in the mine.



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