Dana Roeser Desert Heart

Animals, I get. I feel

connected to every dog

on the street. I smile and

it smiles back. And I feel

guilty about the soft shell crab I

ate last night. With its

edible rosy shell, little

flippers in the

back, segmented legs, fat

claws; its searching

eyes. I know it scurried and

scuttled hard

to stay alive. Likewise,

the spider scaling the

walls in the bathtub of the rental

place. Little and black—it does look

nasty, but I wouldn’t guess it’s

poisonous. I leave it

alone. Maybe it’ll find

its way back

down the drain.

Meds meds



is that’s what’s between me

and a love affair

with the land? I feel sad,

metallically so,

but, no, the sight

of a white

German shepherd in its

harness or a fuzzy furred

mixed breed lab in the surf

laughing away, delivering

its stick to me instead of

its owner

makes me

happy. So, no.

I just do not have

that lover, the land.

Or the land is not my

“fella” as it is to

the very old Weaver Jack

in Daniel Walbidi’s

film about his aboriginal

homeland, Desert Heart.

An artist, he is caught between

two worlds and none of the

elders he took back there

had grown up there.

Save one. And she wept a

an apology

to the land, and to Wilna,

the waterhole. Her homeplace

looked like more bush

to me. But to

her it was not only the


of her childhood, in every

variation of

plant, seed, and furrow. It was a

person—who had been

waiting for

her all those years

since she had been taken away

along with the rest of

her tribal group to

work at a whitefella’s

cattle station far to the northwest

many years before. Weaver Jack,

being elderly, was brought

in a helicopter. They all

sat under a

canvas tarp with Daniel.

I would say they worked under

his tutelage, but

every painting they made

was expert, with its

five views of the

source and parent

of their dreaming. Their

storyline. Aerial, subterranean,

historical, metaphysical,

and actual.

I saw Daniel’s paintings

at the Short Street studio

in Broome. One was foaming,

effervescent, with yellow,

orange, pink, pearly white

in kind of an upward

geyser or fountain. There were

splattered dots of

pink paint. A fascinating riff,

I thought, on the

more traditional diagrammatic

patterned paintings

I had seen. I could see how

it could be a map,

a storyline, a teaching. On this

painting, as on his

other brilliantly colored

paintings, there was a large,

incongruous, black spot.

near the bottom. Circular

or maybe slightly oval,

an anti-moon. I asked

the gallery owner who said

that Daniel puts one

in each painting, as it is the waterhole,

source of sustenance

and grief. I learned a snake

lives there sometimes,

the Rainbow Serpent in

Aboriginal mythology.

It can take bystanders who

are standing near. I thought

of my own grief I am trying

to touch, in hopes

of not hovering forever in this

dry apprehension. The malevolent

forces it might be

better to greet. It’s

like an oversized burn from

a cigarette. It’s

that incongruous. That

gorgeous. Daniel

Wilbidi will

never abandon Wilna.

Without Wilna the people

will quickly die

in the desert. I am

at the ocean.

Thrush song follows me

in the morning,

and at evening,

twilight. I’m caught

surprised by the flaming

sunset outside

my room. I smile

at it, and it says hello.

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