We stop the Subaru in a town west of the Dividing Range
where a café door is camouflaged by pink plastic streamers

that don’t keep the flies out and the taciturn shopkeeper
is wearing a Keith Urban t-shirt (Light the Fuse Tour 2013).

There’s a commotion down the street, so my wife and I investigate,
acting nonchalant and neutral, eating our slippery hamburgers.

At the football field play has stopped because a huge mass
of sulphur-cresteds has landed. It mills and flexes like white lava.

Horns are honking, people are shouting, the cockatoos are shouting
back, with an intensity that is winning the contest.

A big guy with ink on his arms is yelling ‘shoot the bastards!’
while clutching his skinny girlfriend in front of him.

She’s chewing gum, eyes fixed like lasers on the birds,
but impassive, in control. ‘This fuckin’ drought’

someone mutters behind us, as if that explains it all, then
the light gets brighter, hazy, all yellow like in a Peter Weir film,

and you’d swear a time tunnel had opened up. We don’t want to be
sucked in, so we hurry to the car thinking end days, thinking

bush Armageddon. A flock of galahs calls after us sarcastically,
the grey gums that surround the oval are suddenly judgemental,

shrunk to two dimensions like the flattened kangaroos
on the sharp road, the pink of ruptured flesh, mating rituals

and Friday beer, footy trophies in the hall, salt taste of sex,
algae bloom and a cracked sky, nowhere else to go.



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Philip Neilsen

Philip Neilsen’s sixth collection of poetry Wildlife of Berlin (UWAP) was shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor prize in the New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards 2019.

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