Entertainment Outback poetry exposes teenage memories

Outback poetry exposes teenage memories

Sydney poet Cathy Brays remembers what it was like when she travelled by train to the outback mining town of Broken Hill in 1968 as a teenager and seeing for the first time kangaroos from the window.
Twitter Facebook Reddit Pinterest Email

Sitting around the campfire describing the sights and sounds of outback life in prose is not new to those on the land.

Just think of our bush poets Banjo Patterson and Henry Lawson who are famous for their rugged depictions of Australian life.

Sydney poet Cathy Brays remembers what it was like on her first trip to the outback mining town of Broken Hill as a 15-year-old in 1968.

“My parents used to go overseas and pop me into boarding school. I had nowhere to go during the winter holidays, so Cath Connor (school friend) invited me to go out and spend it with her family in Broken Hill.

“The train trip out from Broken Hill was so amazing in this really old rattling train.

“Apparently they had this huge long drought and it just had broken. The whole countryside was covered with this red dirt that was just covered with clumps of amazing wildflowers and all the wildlife.

“The kangaroos were bounding along beside the train and I had never seen anything like it.”

Broken Hill Pastoral, 1968

Eight hours out from Central…

We came onto the heavily watered plains,

hosed down now, to puddles.

Clumps of green lay strewn round

like lurid plastic bath mats on the red dirt.

Proliferating pink and purple wildflowers

to derail the most devoted English gardener.

Cinematic wildlife de-mobbed and oversensitive to noise

appeared beside the train.

The rattling wooden windows,

thrown wide open, were roaring their approval.

I balanced my elbow

on the peeling windowsill.

The carriage-cradle rocking me to sleep;

when the silent newsreel played

relentless to the racket…