In this poem, Phil travels beyond the Dubbo line to contemplate the big questions facing Australia.

The Hilux headed north through our climate’s change.

From Gordon on to Narromine the rain did not refrain.

A meal at the workers’ club, a planned and special event.

Keno and karaoke, beyond the Dubbo Line.

To Brewarrina we did go, the country turned to flat.

An asbestos house, pig dogs barking, and the wind did flap.

The BBQ was ignited, the chops and sausages flamed.

Old friends watched the beers and ate the sweets we did not claim.

The hungry outback beckoned beyond the Dubbo Line.

On which side you fall, depends on your kind.

Bourke, Wilcannia, Cobar, the Hilux slipped within.

And finally on the gravel, a closed road to further in.

A decade or two of opulence had faded with the dust.

Salvaged sausages were sizzled, and wine precisely drunk.

The Darling was wide, but the house and sheds were dry.

The stone was carved and loaded, beyond the Dubbo divide.

The morning came to our surprise, a reverse of course was sought.

A broken heart and Broken Hill are a place and thought.

A tank of gas, a servo snack and a drive-by the old man’s house.

A guilty beer at lunch time and we resume our crazy dance.

The red road to Tibooburra, accommodation purchased for the day.

On to Innamincka and the dingo fence did sway.

To keep the dogs in or out was a topic to be told.

A crossroad is a junction, where a hook did lose its hold.

We search for history’s footprint, beyond the Dubbo Line.

The swags, they sought their freedom – and loose they did become.

The learnings were over, as we search for what was undone.

The rules of the road are unwritten and cannot be overcome.

Best to sit and wait a moment, as Buddha would one day.

The universe is a strange place, its forces bend and sway.

Today a roadside tavern where a boab tree won’t grow.

The swags returned, hamburgers eaten, a refund and on we go.

The swags, they were erected, the sun was setting low.

A ménage à trois of sorts, it’s teamwork that we know.

On an old riverbed were life and ambition did grow.

Not all plans ended well, in this land of dust and glow.

The journey west had ended, and the needle pointed east.

Some petrol at a robot bowser, and a straight dark road to feast.

A dingo hit the Hilux; its chances were its own.

We roamed the main street and our bumper hung low.

Hauled up in Charleville, the floorboards they did creak.

The kettle tripped the fire alarm and disturbed our sleep.

A bakery run by Pauline, with Filipino sweets.

A poster says, we stand, with that soldier Ben Roberts-Smith.

It was time to go to Roma and perhaps the Darling Downs.

A sign declared, a gas pipe and more within the town.

As we soaked in the hot pool at Mitchell, some wisdom did unfold.

This is a holiday apparently, so I have been told.

Queensland is full of hard cops, who will search your van.

There are those that travel often and then those when they can.

There was tension on the voyage, the travels of the damned.

Relaxation takes a back seat, on the road with the old school man. 

The turn off to the valley was not the one we sought.

A detour and a closed gate got us there with little thought.

The in-laws and a dusty donga, and a metal deck on which to stare.

Beef in a pot and wisdom, a sky wizard if you cared.

The cows, they are a-fartin’, in this healed land.

This strange weather is unexplained, read a book if you can.

If you don’t go to the Doctor, your life is beyond their plans.

We all try and help this planet, the best we can.

A whiff of sexual tension, I am a prospect at 65.

A gorge of grey campers, in diverse camper vans.

On again to Roma, no music was allowed.

Looking for that beefy moment, denied by life’s long plan.

The grates they are calling, and the rail crossings screamed too.

A coffee and a donut are fate for a middle-aged man.

A hamburger by the Balonne.

Eat it if you can.

The border hit the windscreen, like a rock from a passing road train.

On we go to Moree, a place of plants and pain.

Into the dark heart of history, where stories diverge.

Was it Romeo or Juliet, or the gin execution wall?

Final stop, well who would have thought it.

We were getting near to kin and the traffic was closing in.

The clouds reformed and the radio began its familiar sing.

Our journey was to become separated things.

To contemplate the big land, beyond the Dubbo Line.

Look kindly on the old people and harshly on the new kind.

A cloud of gas, a sway of cotton, coal and cattle grew.

Wealth for the nation or a smoke screen for the few?

Philip Bull, Civic Assessment

Philip Bull is the principal of Civic Assessment a development consulting business, focused on development and social impact assessment. He has worked in the planning departments of Woollahra, Botany, South Sydney, Randwick, the City of Sydney and Waverley Councils. More by Philip Bull, Civic Assessment

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