Published 31 March 202314 April 2023 · Poetry / Friday Poetry Poetry | Dog walking in the desert Leni Shilton Mparntwe | Alice Springs claypans Each time you walk take a bag for the rubbish, for the weeds. Stride out then confuse the dog as you stop over and over, like you are picking at treasure. You dig with the heel of your boot at the sea of three-corner-jack prickles and remind yourself next time to bring gloves. Each walk, you gather up small parts of the broken car dumped at the water’s edge, its innards strewn across the sand. You look for debris that will fit in the bag. Today it’s a wing mirror half hidden by red dirt, like it has flown to escape the wreckage, and fallen. You pick at its pieces of black plastic, its shattered parts spread here and there, like toxic feathers. Up the track, the dog is waiting. She stands in the shade of an ancient corkwood, pale-yellow flowers unfurling against spiky leaves, the whole tree growing lighter in the waking dawn. She is looking back at you, and you imagine she has learnt to remind you to look up from the broken bottles, and the next pile of cans to look at the country – to the orange hills and the bright wide sky reflecting in pools of glowing water. Note: Mparntwe is the Arrernte name for Alice Springs, a remote town in the centre of Australia. The Arrernte are the Aboriginal traditional owners of Mparntwe. The claypans are a series of natural ponds located outside the town. These only fill after rain. The area is of profound importance to local Arrernte people. The landscape has been altered since colonisation with the introduction of foreign plants and animals. It is also used as a recreation area with rubbish left and the occasional stolen car abandon there. It is a beautiful and fragile environment. Leni Shilton Leni Shilton is a poet and educator. She grew up in Papua New Guinea and Melbourne, and lives in Mparntwe | Alice Springs. She has written two verse novels: Malcolm (2019 UWAP) and Walking with camels – the story of Bertha Strehlow (2018 UWAP), the winner of the 2020 Chief Ministers Fiction Book Award. Her writing regularly appears in anthologies and journals including APJ, Cordite, Plumwood Mountain and Best of Australian Poetry 2022. Leni won the 2022 Inaugural Born Writers Award for her poetry collection Voices. More by Leni Shilton Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places. If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate. Related articles & Essays 1 First published in Overland Issue 228 2 June 20232 June 2023 · Friday Poetry Three Chaingrass poems Catherine Vidler Three visual poems from Catherine Vidler's Chaingrass series. First published in Overland Issue 228 15 May 202326 May 2023 · Poetry Poetry | Two poems by Ouyang Yu Ouyang Yu You have to do it badly. If it is poetry, even more so, because there is no because. If you write like you were the best in the world, you are the worst because you pretend too hard. Too harsh, too. Why do you want to be the best? Is that because you are a lack or there is a lack in you that you feel like filling up all the time? Even when you are named the best, does that mean anything?