Another take on exploration – this time influenced by reading about early European explorers of Australia and their fixed belief that there was a huge inland sea. This is not, though, a poem about them, but something less rational and measurable.
It is a long way home from this last camp
We have found the inland sea we planned to find
Though it is smaller than we always thought
And seems to shrivel in the relentless sun.
We found some creatures that were good to eat
And others that entranced our sand-sore eyes
With the incredible sheen of many feathers.
We did not, though, catch fish in this strange sea;
The water is unpleasant to the tongue
Though in the crumbling rocks up this low hill,
Here on the spiny bushes warted slope,
Our cook found this strange scaly fossil that
Must once have been a fish when the sea was higher.
On this loose stone strewn hilltop overlooking
This sparkling sea, we have seen the stumps of trees
And we have heard the comments of our keen
Geologist: these pebbles are black glass
Incredible heat has forged them out of sand
But there is too much here to understand
We are returning what we’ve missed
We will leave this silent land.
On the way back we have kept these chiselled samples,
Relying on the streams we passed and used
On the way out: but now the streams seem smaller
And here is one that has dried to windblown sand.
These yellow fruits resist the hungry teeth
With a tough skin but a sharp knife will do it:
Inside is watery pulp and teasing sugars.
Finally we straggle to the crest from where
You can see the singing valley we started from
Thunder beats a dry drum
But the trees and houses are gone.