What’s it like in Alice Springs?


My friend has a friend who is moving to Alice soon. She emailed me yesterday for advice, so I wrote her a long list of places to go, things to do. What I really wanted to say was this:


alice is red dust in freshly washed white sheets, fine wine restaurant food and slam poetry

contemporary dance pub rock and gypsy jazz, sunset bush walks and veranda philosophy

lush american gardens and dry desert dustbowls


alice is luxury pools and glass filled dry riverbeds

bylaws & bushlaw, humbug & friendship & centrelink

trains ambulances police road trains trucks

yelling screaming smashing sirens and that wailing

constant reminders of uselessness, helplessness, failure and shame banging on your door at night as you peek between the blinds


alice is stillness and silence and timeless

jurassic palms soccer-field-green grass

icy water wet mud underfoot cool calm rocks


alice is asphalt concrete hot hard blister toes

cracked earth flakes and crumbles with footprints

dry barren bare


alice is east coast new blood bright eyes and big ideas

inspired teachers fresh youth workers FIFO journos

university protesters, socialist alliance

thirsty for authentic culture ancient knowledge

to understand womens business get in on mens law sacred secret stuff

wanting so urgently to believe that strong mobs exists, that you can plant seeds you’ll never see grow, ripples in the pool and all the other circle jerking feel good metaphors clung to in the city

hungry to be part of it make it better get under its skin

get a skin name

and sometimes, just get it just understand just build rapport make relationships facilitate collective constructive solutions to real and perceived issues collaborate initiate groundbreaking programs

only to burn out

but the place will ring itself out

they will hang themselves up to dry

only to get red dust in freshly washed white sheets

and start again


alice is a lifes work

dedication, passion, motivation and other words we discount on sunset wallposters but here are real

lived and breathed this community, some for decades some for centuries

alice has seen it all before, the cycle, the coming and going and coming back again

alice is still there chipping away at it, making small and big changes taking one step forward and then three steps back

alice is wise


soft greenie hard redneck

red dirt sky blue

black white

but mostly

alice is



those confusing non colours between the black and white

somewhere between the two polar opposite extremities of certainty

between letters to the local editor and commonwealth enquiry papers

between fact and opinion, culture and morality, tradition and progress, religion and politics, compassion and pragmatism, acquired comfort and required awkwardness


alice is still, silent & timeless

alice is luxury pools and dry glass filled riverbeds

alice is red dust in freshly washed white sheets



23 thoughts on “What’s it like in Alice Springs?

  1. This is beautiful, Eb. I wonder if these thoughts were collected during your time living there, or gathered together recently, thinking back on a place that was. Thanks for this. It was super inspiring and, even though perhaps it doesn’t seem it, full of joy. xx

    P.S. I know I owe you a phone call. Soon. Sorry. x

    • Thanks PKK, I’m stoked you like it, bit nervous about sharing it on here. Totes written while I was living there, in fact, that photo is of the view out of my window as I wrote the first draft.

    • Thanks mate. Just between you, me and the internet, I originally wrote it as a spoken word piece with pace and rhythm etc. Who knows, maybe some time soon I’ll be back in the Alice and maybe some kindred poet can keep me in the loop with such spoken word happenings…

  2. Pingback: “What’s it like in Alice Springs?” – desertdates | dust. for. the. dancers

  3. Thank you desert dates, this is a very good poem, and true story about Alice. For me though instead of Alice being grey it is ‘the space between…….(all those different positions).

  4. I love that last line. I keep thinking of it at random moments, and it always makes me smile. I feel inspired to write about London now.

  5. Beautiful open-hearted writing of something so complex, confusing, beautiful, tragic, inspiring and heartbreaking all at once. Nailed it aBet!

    • Oh debwood! Thanks! Stoked that it resonates with solid desert women like yourself! You can take the woman outta the desert, eh? Do you know when Jackie might be writing again soon? If you see her, let her know her words are anticipated.

  6. Pingback: A Wide Open Weekend | Impromptu Immigrant

  7. Pingback: A Town Called Alice - Alice Springs - Merindah Art

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