Abercrombie River Algorithm

Empty wrappers on the back seat we’re having
a good time bouncing along heading for Extinction
small town east of nowhere broken glass winking
on the side of the road tax cuts cost of living
surging at Black Springs the compost toilets stink
of living – at three in the morning no one is wise
lack of toilet rolls and overpriced bottled water
shooting stars wrong motel car keeps coughing
chest infection too much dust too much resistance
to change flat tyres global rubber shortage drought
swirling sandwiches chips cake coffee in this dirt
nothing dirt nothing world – mayhem of dust
running through fences

knee deep in this world of bones the algorithm
wears leather driving gloves self-correcting
like a drunk at a party searching for water to drown
the argument – a line of smudged dirt turns out
to be the river propped up on one elbow
like a skinny curious thing which has married
the earth and these vast boulders are the children
smooth and imperfect – a kind of paradise
in our hearts – council says the septic needs
enlarging – gnats infest the living room
each night peanut butter rice noodles
the farmer will sue if there’s damage to the grid
oh so now the algorithm’s eating chips
with tiny binary salty fingers and counting strange
grey litter on the highway – three thousand
stiff legged wombats pointing to the next life
like oracles of our future.

Christine Paice


Christine Paice is an award winning poet and writer. She has published two poetry collections, Mad Oaks, and Staring at the Aral Sea, a children’s book, The Great Rock Whale, and her debut novel, The Word Ghost (2014). Her work has been shortlisted, anthologised, and performed on BBC Radio. She lives on the south coast of New South Wales, where she is an acclaimed observer of driveways.

© 2019