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Newer Volcanics
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Songs

The songs for Newer Volcanics were written during our Creative Fellowship at State Library of Victoria. Our fellowship project involved researching Melbourne's western waterways, the changes industrialisation brought to local creek and river environments, and the lives of people who lived and worked along their banks in the 19th and 20th centuries. The waterways we researched included the Birrarung and Maribyrnong rivers, and the Moonee Moonee Chain of Ponds, Stony, Kororoit, Laverton and Skeleton Waterholes creeks.

1

Moonee Moonee Chain of Ponds

Moonee Moonee Chain of Ponds
With your reeds and your black swans

Moonee Moonee Chain of Ponds
With your reeds and your black swans

Moonee Moonee Chain of Ponds
With your reeds and your black swans

Moonee Moonee Chain of Ponds
With your reeds and your black swans

This is The Railway.

I’ve come to carve your circles straight
I’ve come to bring your edges parallel
and there: a ribbon of blue you’ll be
to carry the coal that feeds me


You know the city cannot wait, 
You know the swamp will soon be drained,
You know the sky will turn to road,

and yet you still resist.

Moonee Moonee Chain of Ponds
With your reeds and your black swans
2

Walking West

Walking west
Out across the Lowlands
Drifting with the coal dust
To find my home footing
To find my home footing

River lined with tanks
Bluestone beaching on the banks
Iron girder railway bridge
Footscray high upon the lava ridge

The confluence is deep and wide
A brutal snake across the sky
We watch container ships glide
Filled with sugar 
Built on bonemills 
On this stolen land

Fertilizer sheds are gabled tight
Furnace rooflines over flaking pyrite
Arsenic cinders, hidden infill on the riverbank

There is the past
Flowing again
Saltwater pushes and pulls at a manmade bend

Always there
The past is always there

Signals are dark
The river a seam
Light on the ridge is now hidden by glass and steel

But I still feel
The silty clay
Meeting the bay

I will soon be a layer
I will soon be a layer
I will soon be a layer
A layer, a layer, a layer
3

Blue Lake

Blue Lake, where is it you lie?
Hidden, on the north-west side
Beneath bitumen, I heard they filled you in,
Drained you out,
Covered over,
Driven further away,
Concrete on clay.

Blue Lake, fringed with pink and green,
Saltwater, rise and then recede.
Now only myth,
Under South Wharf, could you persist?
Driving home, over Dynon,
Lost my bearings, and then,
Caught dreaming again,
About that Blue Lake.
4

River River

Cartridge maker by the River
Pouring powder into thimbles
Metal rolling bloody foil
(Her) Body laid in flour and oil

Reaper, binder, boiler, packer
Superphosphate chimney stacks are
Multiplying down the River
Burning copper pyrites to a cinder

Take the cinders to the dredges
Fill the saltmarsh up to edges
This is how a city grows:
Border caution fencing forward

Woolen mills and cordite tresses
Nitroglycerine confessors
Now I dream and float there with you
Under Calder, under bridges

Ammunition safely stored
Warships downstream justly moored?
Moonlight over tidal song
There I find you Maribyrnong

River, River, all your people
River, River, all your people
All the lives we never grieved

Untold bodies lost and given
Untold bodies lost and given
5

Wetlands Sleep

Through boulders grey and honeycombed,
carving out a bed in time,
two rivers meet on the south west side.

The ebb and flow now 
realigned.
Paved and railed.
Containerised.
Roadways hard against the tide.

To cross you, morning and at night.
Wetlands sleep beneath these lines.

I never wondered who you were - until
my sleep became disturbed - until
my feet were raw with nerves 
unnamed yearning; - until
searching for a place to be.

I remembered:
water pooling in the yard,
algae blooming thick and green,
cracked soles and holes as my shoes sank
classroom cold,
June’s creeping damp.
The drain, once creek, now channelised,
rising through the night. 

I wished I was the underlay:
the weave and weft of silt and clay
of saline marsh and sedge and
drift.

My carriage sways.
Trains glide along the causeway. 

To cross you, morning and at night.
Wetlands sleep beneath these lines.
I cross you.
6

Heart Beating Breathless

The night is a train
And it leaves for the west
Sway to the sleepers
Heartbeating breathless

I sink through the wetlands
I sink through the clay
I reach for the red soil
Basalt carves its way
Basalt carves its way

I leave McKay and his lore
I leave colonial wealth and theft
Where the grazing was easy
And the wheat fields pushed out west
And west 
And west 
And west...

------ ½ time
Cooling waters of Narrm
In the bleakness I turn to you

Where all our tears flow into your arms
There is so much that I never knew
There is so much that I never knew
There is so much that I never knew
------Full time

Bloodstock stamp in the bluestone  stable
Game wings scatter as the shots ring out
Coursing the dunes: a boxthorn fable
Heartbeating Breathless

Samphire ripped from the edge of the shore
Burning a pyre in the noonday sun
Rifle Range to the final salt lake
Kick at the thorns and the Crown as we run

As we run
As we run
As we run
As we run
As we run
As we run
As we run
As we run
Rabbit run
7

Spotswood

Down by the river where the factories lie, 
And the Westgate stretches across the sky, 
I've moved north and I've lived south, 
But I always return to the river mouth.

Out from the city all the secrets pour, 
Through pipes that were laid a hundred years ago; 
Love and ruin in the straining wells, 
Rags and bodies and teeth and gold.

A woman of science in the tower above, 
Her laboratory a labour of love, 
There she worked while the war raged on, 
Never to marry or she'd loose it all.

When I was young I never knew 
That I'd be brought back here to you, 
No stranger thing than how we're drawn 
Back to the place from which we're born.
8

Saltworks

Waiting on the saltpans,
watching from the high ground:
tide 
tide
tide
through the traps.

Sun burns and burns 
the crystals bright, 
I narrow my eyes 
to the glistening light.
A scatter of sodium chloride and silt,
desiccant diamonds 
on silica beds.
Catalyst and cleaner
on colonial rails
to the canneries, 
the abattoirs,
and later,
the oil refinery.

Sun burns and burns.
The birds return:
white faced herons in flight
black swans  - I call to you.
We lie, 
lied, 
lie and turn.
Then walk to the edge for forgiveness
in the shallows and sea grass.

Sun burns and burns 
on the western shore.
This inlet is hotter by two degrees -  that’s what they tell me.

And there is the city like a cardboard cut out
linked by a bridge I crossed in my youth,
distant and grey (like I don’t even know you), 
this was the entrance that changed everything.
This was the surface, now covered and carved:
the buffering edges of Skeleton Creek
the sentinel flame of the refinery

still burns 
and burns. 
9

Stony Creek

When it rains you flow high
Past eleven quarry holes
To dub the town: Stoneopolis


Your ancient bed served London well
Her pavement smooth and durable
For heels low and high
While distant feet hooved, unshod
Sink into softer clays and silt like mine
(Feet like mine)

When it rains you flow high
With waste of wool and skin
The scouring foam of sulfur, lime and tan
Into a hair-combed
Half-moon estuary
Mangrove fringed in green and white
(In green and white)

When it rains you flow high
A reminder water always find a way
To this bay home
A reminder water always finds a way
To this bay home
To this bay home

Casuarina burning a casualty
And the tea tree felled for the tanneries
Call it backwash: push away the estuary
Pave with concrete: take your blood away from me
10

Merri

Merri, your water flows into the quarry 
Where bluestone once lay below, 
But now the gutters are paved with your heart, 
And the hole is filled with clay 
And fallen homes.

Evening, when we ride into the valley, 
Cool air and tannin sighs, 
Allocasuarinas whisper the same song, 
As the water follows home, 
And so do I.

Down past the convent, 
And under river, 
And through the headland, 
And out to sea; 
Allocasuarinas whisper the same song: 
I will always follow you.
11

The Hook

As sure as wood will rot in the rain, 
Some things will never be the same: 
Like you and me, 
And the rising sea.

Some things roll on, 
Some things run out. 
You can see the patterns from the old lookout: 
Tracks in the grass, 
Where we used to pass 
Over and over 
Again.

There is only so much time 
Pulling like a fishing line, 
Whether I'm right there on the reel, 
It's the hook I always feel.

So I lay my bed 
With sticks and leaves, 
And curl up like an ancient millipede. 
I've got to let this go. 
Maybe something will grow, 
Or take me over again.