Taralga Road
Early spring, gold
wattle lining the lanes, dams
brimming, fields
and clotted with long-eared lambs, road
deeply pot-holed from the winter rains,
a cyclist
come a cropper
being loaded into an ambulance
seven kilometers north of Kenmore.
she announces just after Tarlo, and stops, gets out.
I see her in the rearview mirror
turn the body over
before walking quickly back
for gloves and a cloth from the first-aid kit. “She's
dead,” she says, “but there's
a tiny paw
reaching from the pouch. I've
got to check.” Across the road, two
young black steers, ears
blue-tagged for slaughter,
amble to the fence to watch, then others
and still more, a dozen, twenty, eyes
wide in concern; if they weren't
animals you'd almost think they knew her. Her
baby dead also, she tells me when she returns; pale
and furless, barely
filling the palm of her hand.
Three kilometers later there's another. “Their pouches
are so wet,” she says, then speaks
in awe of the size of their teeth.
By Oberon
there have been two more
and almost a dozen roos. Some
we stop at, others you can just tell
it's far too late; or there's
a truck on your tail, or the road's so narrow
there's no space to pull over,
let alone any place to run.
Near the turnoff to Jenolan, dusk coming on,
we stop at a young swamp wallaby, head
crushed by a curb-side wheel, the road
a single lane, then, our
examination done, step
back to allow a four-wheel drive to pass, watch
as it grinds her—eyes, ears, brain—
even deeper into the gravel. Her joey
who'd been
still breathing
dies in our hands.