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Beneath the arid surface of Western Australia are hundreds of limestone deposits honeycombed with small holes and filled with water. Each of these deposits is teeming with life. And in each case it’s different.
New Scientist, 3 August 2005

The map is old
very old
a fragment only
the guidelines few
the rumours wild
and contradictory
little enough to
show us what to do

We shiver despite
the searing heat
and gather in
secret and share
what we know for sure.
It is time to go.
And though we seek
the dark river
we will offer no
coin to our carrier.
And in the time of
the last great dry
others departed by
this same road
singly, in groups,
in thousands,
they sank below
the surface of
the continent
seeking refuge
from aridity

Our hearts dry
our souls parched and panting
we will follow them
into the dark crevices
becoming different

Risking all,
we risk nothing
Water is life.

Previously published in Wild Familiars (Tone River Press, 2005)

The science inspiring the piece:

In Western Australia it is illegal to carry out an activity resulting in extinction. The discovery of highly distinctive stygofauna made mining applications quite complicated, as each small pool underground contained unique assemblages. These species became cave dwellers as a response to aridity. My imaginative hypothesis is that we might follow them in response to climate change. 

Listen to Liana read the epigraph and poem:

Feature image via Leon Brooks (Public Domain)