Burke & Wills Web
The online digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020

by Ray Liversidge

© 2006
Greensborough, Vic: Flat Chat Press.

The following is an extract from Chapter 19 of Ray Liversidge's verse novel, The Barrier Range.

Chapter 19 - Cooper's Creek

Depot LXV

By moonlight Burke swears he sees
the camp of Brahe & Co.

Hope strengthens his legs as he stands
in the stirrups and cooees up the creek.

The shadows of trees quake and fall
across our path like folding tents

as we near the depot. All is silent,
then I hear Wills say: King, they are gone!

DIG tree

I double-check the date on my watch.
'But that's today,' I tell a disbelieving Burke.

Falling to his knees our leader pushes aside
the horse and camel shit and commences to

do what the carved trunk of the tree instructs:

3 FT. N.W.
APR. 21 1861

Message in a bottle

Burke ignores the cache of food
and taking the papers out of the bottle,

asked each of us whether we were
able to proceed up the creek in pursuit

of the party. We said not.

If only

If only Wright had not waited so long in Menindee to leave for Cooper's Creek.

If only Brahe had waited one more day - what's one more when you've already waited 127 days?!

If only it was not true - as Brahe had said - that his party was in good health, then we might have followed them immediately to the Darling.

If only Gray had not died.

If only we had not taken a day to bury him.

If only...

Rage against the non appearance of a deus ex machina

Both Burke and Wills with quills in hand
are the gentlemanly calm before my storm.

Greatly disappointed at finding
the party here gone, scribbles Burke.

And Wills, as if looking over the shoulder
of his leader, writes of the disappointment

at finding the depot deserted...
My scream disperses the slumbering birds.

www.burkeandwills.net.au Burke & Wills Web The digital research archive of expedition records
© 2020, Dave Phoenix