© Peter O’Shaughnessy

Winner, 2020 Dusty Swag Awards, Adult Bush Poetry Section, Portarlington, Victoria.

Our deserts are vast, lonely, silent lands.
The sounds out here fade in the burning sands.
Dust devils briefly stir and hiss around
then just as quickly die. They leave no sound
but whispers in the heated desert air –
hot hints of breathless breezes linger there.

But as the velvet shades of night-time fall
the silver songs of desert dark-times call.
Soft sounds and muffled whisperings replace
the silence of this peaceful dreaming place
and noises of the day fade with the light.
So hush – be still and listen to the night.

The desert night has sounds we rarely hear,
soft scratchings as small animals draw near.
Small creatures that you never see by day
the spirits of the dark come out to play –
faint flutterings as tiny birds arrive,
the whispered sounds that bring the night alive.

You’ll hear the murmur of the desert breeze –
the softened, sighing, wind’s song in the trees.
The squeaks when desert mice sneak up to see
who’s there and then – with frantic swish – they flee.
You’ll hear the click of crickets in the heat,
the sounds of tiny creatures near your feet.

The night will bring strange beings on the prowl.
You’ll fear a distant dingo’s lonely howl.
You’ll hear the startling crack of cooling rock–
the startled thump of wallabies in shock –
and in the creaking mulga by the lakes,
the ghostly wail the desert curlew makes.

With mournful morp the mopoke’s warning stills
his world. It’s listening – the silence chills.
And then the silent killer’s deadly swoop,
that’s when you hear the owl, his ghostly whoop.
A squeal – another tiny life has gone –
a moment’s peace then night-time’s sounds go on.

But if you listen for the desert’s sounds
they’re all around and every sound surrounds.
The songs of darkness tell us all is well.
The silences are where the dangers dwell.
With fearful stealth and frightened soft reply
the silent times are where the warnings lie.

Then as the first, faint shades of grey seduce
the dark and every sound night can produce,
that’s when the secret sounds of night succumb
to morning’s songs proclaiming – day will come.
The world grows still – the calm before the dawn
that calls the world to hear a new day born.

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