Australia’s Slumbering Heart

Mavis Tian

This land is a symphony I do not understand.

The red-rust dust and scattered desert-grass tell stories I cannot hear.

They sing  primordial songs that my soul recognises

(I feel this connection in the west wind as the sun-heat on my back pins me to this land).

Here amongst the rush of the winds, the rustling of the shrubs,

The sway of desert flowers, the trills of birds;

I have found the silent murmur of calming heat.

My mind, brimming with stagnant water

(mercury / flowing / faintly poisonous)

Filled with tumbling leaves on its surface,

Covered thick with mosquitos and the stench of static;

I am the bow and snap of branches,

Reaching desperate boughs into sky.

My eyes are twinkling galaxies of stars,

Too dim for human comprehension,

Burning with a thousand desires.

My hands are scorched bark,

Rough and unloved.

My arms are lightning-struck,—

My heart is anchoring roots in the savannah 

Spinifex till the horizon

But in my mind, there is no fire, no eddies, no moon-pull.

This land is the balm which quenches all unease; —

Soothes the anger of a brutalised people,

Soothes the sorrow of colonised homes,

Soothes  the pain of a brutal government,

Soothes the fear of losing children,

Soothes the damage of White Man.

I feel ancient power here and they whisper

(This is not your land to claim);

They roar

(Seek / understand / what will never be yours)

I am theirs,

I have always been theirs, 

I always will be theirs.

I thank the land, though its heat

May never be my hearth.

It knows I will always yearn

For another taste of this silence.

For I carry the heavy embers of wrongs

Done and change to come,

A quiet fire which rages unconquered—unquenched.


Mavis Tian is a third year student studying History and Govt/IR. Her work has appeared in Hermes, ARNA, Honi Soit, University of Sydney Student Anthology, and Youth in Motion Magazine. She will be self-publishing in the near future. She loves napping and is a generally anxious person trying to deal with life through poetry. You can find her online at