Kevin Brophy’s latest book is a record of the year he spent living in the remote Aboriginal community of Mulan. The community is home to predominantly Walmajarri people, and is on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert, sixteen hours’ drive from Broome. He was given a decomposing house to live in – a ‘fixer-upper’, by all accounts – and spent his lunchtimes volunteering in the school library. The rest of his slow days were spent in gentle, intimate observation and participation in the eddies of community life.
Brophy animates the specificities of remote community life with the masterful imagery that Australian letters has come to expect from a poet of Brophy’s calibre and experience. He writes of the ‘baked corrugations’, the ‘rotting road’, and the red sandstone hills ‘worn down to their gums’. A brief storm ‘shoulders every tree in town / like a drunk weaving home through a crowd’. He writes of the ‘dark liquid knowledge’ lapping in the eyes of a camel, and the chilled meat in the local shop (the only shop), which looks ‘freshly torn / from panicked creatures’.