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— Nancy Fowler

The long road across the Outback,
 mile after dry mile
 of seeming nothingness,
 the only way
 to see wild camels
 scruff through the brush.
 Station cattle gather
 near scattered windmill water barrels,
 resigned to their fate.
 
Outside Alice Springs,
 the half-breed
 tells of men’s business,
 penis cuts in secret rites
 of initiation into manhood,
 a reminder of the world’s pain.
 The women do not talk
 of their passage
 into womanhood, rape
 at an early age, the lesson is the same.
 
The old woman silently offers me
 a handful of honey ants,
 a cure for women’s monthly pains
 and for quieting sorrows of the mind.
 Their sweetness of the ants
 is a treat, a passing respite. In faith
 I take her offering in my opened hand,
 then lick and swallow as they bite.
 Sweetness and pain, life.

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