I went out noodling and found a prose poem instead. Not a pedigree, a bit of a mongrel really, and it had a coat of red gibber and looked up at me with open azure eyes wide like the sky. I was sitting there on a decades-old mullock heap minding my own business, actually having a little break with a cup of coffee from my thermos, and removing chunks of stone from my boots when up jumped this funny little poem, tugging at my jeans and telling me to get moving. ‘But I’m noodling!’ ‘Some noodler you are!’ ‘Yesterday I found a sparkling scrap in cobalt and green as ancient as the Eromanga Sea’ which is to say it was created when the Cretaceous inland waterbody collided with syllica somewhere in the north-east quarter of Australia a million years ago. ‘There may be more…’ but admittedly all I’ve found today are discoloured crystalline teeth. The bus-long swimmer kronosaurus smiles again. ‘Ha!’ The little prose poem was having none of it. ‘Let’s go!’ (and I admit I was curious about who had left these mullock heaps) and so I drained the dusty dregs of the coffee and I put my notebook in my backpack and the thermos and the stainless- steel noodling tool (with some regret) and I put on my helmet and got on my bike. I rode to the main street where preserved old dugouts slump into the hill, plastered white like a Greek village house against the roaring heat of summer. Hessian in the roof, iron pots in the fire-place, dust on the floor, coolness. Over to the Andamooka cemetery. In neat rows the men lay – Hungarian and Yugoslav and French and Irish and English and Belgian – all traversing oceans deep and dangerous for the opal, to crack open pearly painted ladies shimmering in rainbows trapped in rough, plain brown stone? What hardships did they endure? What dreams drove them on? And when the mining days were over their mates of the field and mullock heap rest their rusted picks and broken shovels on their graves and poured libations of beer. And I wondered, did they ever find their own piece of cobalt and green Eromanga Sea? From the cemetery I ride to One Tree Hill, where all can noodle freely and I put the prose poem, still struggling, in the backpack and secured it there. I take out my stainless-steel noodling tool and sit in an old trench and poke its sides.
Noodling – scraping through mullock heaps left by opal mining to find scraps of opal
Andamooka – opal mining town in outback South Australia