before new years eve……
thick smoke envelopes our valley
coats our tongues
slipping particles into the blood stream
rivers and dams collapse under the weight
of the hot dry winds and fierce Sun
forests have sent up smoke signals
all is not well
heed the children.
and then one day Fire came
orange red flames licking
gorging on grasses wood,
devouring the tree the spider the worm
those that could scattered
rose up into the air
some diving to ground trembling bodies pressed suffocating
others fled running for their lives
some hid to be chanced over, others fried.
I waited at the house
in an outfit
I had carefully selected and laid out the night before
jeans and belt
pink woollen socks big boots
singlet, green checked woollen shirt
blue crocheted woollen beanie
thick golden gloves and a face mask.
the hoses were in place
half a dozen of them in snake formation around the house.
the job description was easy,
to verandah and under
up the poles and onto windows
even the walls.
water water water
next hose next verandah repeat
oh and stay alive.
waiting, watching the advance
creeping into the bush like a thief in the night
with an almighty roar.
John in his red woollen shirt ,
hoody up and mask on,
starts the pump
water is running from every hose
the verandah wetted from the night before
but we hose it all again.
the gutters are filled with water
a ring of fire at the dam
the shack goes up
a loud whump signals the end of Rebeccas BMW.
fire scaling up tree trunks
gobbling shrubs ferns grasses
angophoras red gums
snapping leaves leaping dancing cavorting
and coming directly towards us.
it picks up pace coming up the slope from the dam
a wall of flame approaches the south verandah.
John is calm
he has a the high pressure hose
fire meets water and determination
John stands firm.
He built this house
made every brick
from the earth in front of the house,
it literally rose up out of the ground
one brick at a time
for over 30 years a family home
one that now rings to the tune of grandchildren,
blood sweat tears births deaths marriages
this house alive, pulsates with love.
inside smoke is thick
bath tub full of skanky dam water
Zoes woollen blankets a sodden heap on the floor
a good escape to crawl under to steady the breath
before returning outside to the heat,
the inferno the hoses and water.
embers skipping onto the roof
making holes in the clear roof panels
curling embers meet sodden verandah and vanish
no burns on the boards, no blisters on our bodies.
a window cracks in the bedroom
the window where our mobiles sit to get reception.
dust soot ash and charcoal coat everything
charred trunks and limbs
a whole understorey has disappeared.
will we see now?
will we wake to reality?
our Planet home
our beautiful beautiful home
trying to deal with our consumables, our plastics
our fumes our anger.
too much she cries
forgive us for we do know what we do
that’s the tragedy
some days after the main fire front had passed
trees still smouldering
roots deep in the ground burning,
many elder trees are continuing to fall
walking on crusty black ash
the ground as if plowed up
giant holes where once a root system lived
patterns of ash like crop circles
skirting fallen trees
shallow breathing the air
smoky thick and relentless
we leave our burnt forest
drive through a silent world
a charred smouldering valley,
some neighbours houses mere rubble
power poles smashed sideways
wires curling in chaos
We come to our village
half the main street has been smashed
this is my new world.
the tower has fallen
the spin of ideas and aspirations has tripped
been knocked sideways
taken a slam.
the Fates thread the loom
brightly coloured lights bounce from fingertips
glories rarely glimpsed
elemental energies dance
holding holding holding
while the tapestry is woven
the women are Singing.