Sunday, November 14, 2010

From this dry place...

A poem by John Kinsella, posted here by Tracy


a rebuke for Julia Gillard, Piers Akerman, Peter Coleman et al.

‘Look, cranes still know their path through empty air;
For them their world is neither soon nor late;
But ours is eaten hollow with despair.’

James McAuley, ‘The Tomb of Heracles’

Restart of the fire season:
a mushroom cloud on the first
horizon — the penultimate —
an edge not far enough for
comfort. From his fire-tower

my great-grandfather scanned
the sea of trees for that wisp:
that leader, sign you can never
over-read. I went to that tower
as a child and did the same.

I barely remember. Maybe
he was already dead. I’ve been
talking fire all day long: poets
writing it, neighbours discussing
the risks, all our preparedness.

The firebreaks are done.
Scraped and scraped again,
looking for that second layer,
that second safer layer.
It never reveals itself.

Mostly, it’s the smell: weird
sign of noses cocked to the air,
like some unwholesome fetish.
It’s so dry that ‘dust to dust’
would seem our mantra.

But it’s not. ‘Fire to fire’,
‘fire to fire’ is all we utter
when the water-tanks are low
and flood (should we be smitten)
could only fill the valley

enough to lap at the foot
of this block. But here they
reference conflagration
by stating war is necessary
in another place (we’re not far

from an army camp), to make
our place. There’s not a drop
of water left on the block
but still a white-faced heron
loops in, surveys, lifting

back to reconnaissance.
Maybe I’d be excused
thinking it a profit, sign
in a secular world, expression
of divine intervention and polity?

We cover ourselves from head
to toe — Tracy’s dad is being
eaten by melanomas. To sing
the ‘sunburnt country’
doesn’t really work for him.

In the death of adrenaline,
a vacuum makes its own contexts:
the stony ground, a harsh wind
that cuts hot and cold. Who quotes
and speaks our heroisms:

our world is theirs, bird
or human, and each year
fewer trees make it through, more
of us die at the edges, the centres.
‘Fire-fight’ the default setting.

John Kinsella

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