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Barbara De Franceschi

Mining the Idyllic

Coming off night shift I trudge a dusty path to transportable simulated comforts. With body clock out of sync and lungs dehydrated, I try to justify this fly-in/ fly-out location infested with hard hats and steel-toed boots. Toxic the camp cat tosses beer carton scraps into the air as though playing with bark on a forest floor. To grime-rimmed eyes sucked to sleeping quarters she is the only light-hearted thing in sight. Early morning heat slobbers across the bruised terrain, mine shafts overlay native grass, slag dumps fed by zinc ponds procreate. In the distance a train line searches for unbroken belts, spurs and tuff. I am too tired to notice the changing forms in a desolate mirage – the ghosts of dead miners looking for somewhere to haunt free from skimp dust, a place to swirl fallen leaves with ethereal breath. Old codger who cleans the lavatories leans on his mop, lights a cigarette, tries to hold me with yarns about the impossible -



      shingled huts.

Barbara De Franceschi’s “Mining the Idyllic” was first published in Cordite 29: Pastoral (2008). The guest poetry editor for this issue was Stuart Cooke.

Barbara De Franceschi

Barbara De Franceschi is a poet who lives in the outback mining town of Broken Hill. Her work has been published widely in Australia and in five other countries; she has two collections of poetry, Lavender Blood (2004) and Strands (2009). Barbara is also involved with a programme titled ENRICH (Enhanced Rural Remote Inter-professional Cultural Health) a collaboration between Department of Rural Health, University of Sydney and West Darling Arts (an arts and cultural service organisation that operates in partnership with Local Government and Arts New South Wales). This is a pilot study to introduce a range of art topics (e.g. creative writing) to under-graduate medical students and health professionals to determine if such programmes can be relevant and beneficial in clinical practices by increasing skills, knowledge and attitudes such as communication, observation, and interpretation.

A Typical Day At Work 

To say I am unemployed is a myth. My workday often seems long and tiring. I have many titles (wife, mother, grandmother, community activist and of late primary carer) each of which have varying degrees of effort, pursuit and compassion. Somewhere in there is also Barbara, a person with a craving for artistic stimulus, hence a poet. In the chaos of duty, domesticity, minding and caring, I try to write every day. I have a quiet room that is entirely mine where I can sit and do nothing (a rare endeavour), read, dream, or create a poetry masterpiece (yet to be achieved). There is something transcendent about trying to define tragedy or turn simplicity into the extraordinary(those quirky and sometimes brash word images that can formulate into a poem); one hour of writing can pass as if but a brief moment, followed by another span of sorting the “worth keeping” from the “trash.” Some days it is impossible to find a “my time” scenario, so I toil in a dislocation of sorts, chomping through the interrogation of “too busy to get to that passionate context of words and creativity.”