Monday, May 8, 2017

Wheatbelt Stubble Burns and Fencing Are Just Other Methods of Clearing Native Vegetation

   by John

This poem is in response to the atrocity of stubble-burning going on at the moment in wheatbelt Western Australia. We have spent two months under smoke from pointless and damaging burns. In the extreme dry (no rain!) the stubble has easily lent itself to complete burnouts of surrounding bushland. And so many old-growth trees left in paddocks are now burnt to ash. A disgrace! And there's a binge of fencing going on, with fencers (and landowners) removing as much vegetation as they think they can get away with.

Graphology Endgame 74: burn testament burn-off


The burn-off racket. The windrows flame out.
The oops, it got away from us — fire having its way.

Blokes in hi-vis jackets light the stubble & evaporate.
Highlights to flame against, smoke dousing bees

where manna-wattles blossom now on edges,
so eruptive to nakedness, the raw combustion.

Don’t separate off napalm in the farming-out
of warfare — contrast victor and conquered. Don’t

lose track of parodic elements, those satellite furphies
to barely catch out the wanton, the collateral exposé.

Firebreaks ignored when razing the fence-line.
Lexical endgame in ‘out of control’; afraid there’s no

conservation cropping going on here, just burning
regimes to mock retention. Stubble binds. Stubble burns.

A week later, we’re back on the same road to witness
the entire bush-residue burnt out — the hop, skip and a jump

from paddock to enclave. Ash complements emptiness.
Summer’s fire-plan is autumn’s clearance sale in action.

Where we’d admired tall York gums in the centre of a paddock,
along the spine of the eroded Dyott Range, we see emptiness.

Fire climbed into branches and wiped out eras of nests.
Ash and charcoal ploughed into the loam — warped fertility.

We see power-poles in paddocks protected from the burning —
thus the selective nature of ‘accidents’. Growth as mechanism.

We have lived in a humidicrib of smoke for two months. Singed
and coated lungs. Landowners burning out the heart of here

as vengeance against the dry, against the ecosphere
for telling them what’s what. No rain means more flame.

In this age of destruction, we are expected to keep
our mouths shut and cop what’s ‘good’ for us?


In this long dry, flames reach higher and it’s a gamble
grabbed with both hands: the fire-starters thirsty

for every extra bag of grain or hay-bale they can eke out.
Shot-term visionaries of the aggro-cultivated balance sheet.

And where flames don’t wipe out the remaining trees,
bring in the fencers! — excise every last tree along roadsides,

extended domains of felling. These tricks of demolition — scrolling,
rolling up. Work that into lines of rhyming iambic pentameter —

a colonial metre; or better still, make comment
and enjoy the indifference of movies or game-stations

in open forms. Poetry accommodates what is as long
as it sparkles in display — pseudo-ritualistic burning-off

being the way of it, the sun a red goitre in the encarboned sky.
And Stephen Hawking, O prophet of humanity, instructs us

that ‘resources’ will be used up (too fast, too fast) within a hundred years,
not a thousand, and we’d better hop to it and get out there

colonising space (I thought that’s what had been happening
all along). Hawking might like to visit the Western Australian

wheatbelt to see humans cutting off their noses to spite
all other faces, to see the eco-system of a tree

go up in smoke at the one time of year
we might hope to avoid bushfires — this

is the psychology and skills we’ll take out there
from here, the green eye on green planets to make bare.

The smoke of lit fires across the planet blankets
the future. It hasn’t rained and the farmers

can’t crop so they burn (working hard — leaving
the burning unattended) — to expand, to make ready,

to add the quintessence of their agriculture
to cracking the world’s pastoral-ismo enigma code.

The feeders, the fed, the feeding: eat what’s served up
on our plates. Not every farmer, of course — no one size

fits all, but people stand and suffocate bewildered,
not knowing what to do. Firies who fight summer fires

light late-autumn fires and have a barbecue afterwards.
Just one scenario, but it’s all in play at the moment.

And those few colonisers out there, who will wreak
development on other worlds, will think back to what

they’ve left, the billions dying, and say, all those plumes
of smoke, those destroyed trees, those genetically

modified crops replacing evolution. For our sakes.
We carry the genes of Stephen Hawking

in phials around our necks: ancestry,
the burning that brought false fertility

hard to pick out on this bloody
and smoky event horizon we cease under.


We are not alone. A letter to the Toodyay paper
pointing out that such burning-off is illegal.

And another in the York paper. Rain doesn’t
come, so the burning continues. Into the ash,

the GM canola implants. Air-seeders,
dust plumes. Last year there were families

in the crops — bumper green — to leitmotif
the media. Happy families as the earth contracts.


The colours of a polluted sunset are simply awe-inspiring.
I won’t fill in the wild and muted and angry colour chart —

that’s just a little indulgent, isn’t it? Giving you something
sensuous to get a grip on, dig your teeth into. That’d be

making art out of the horror — finding beauty in the
last gasp. But I’ve seen many land-owners standing

on the edge of their spreads (it’s the year of America)
admiring their handiwork, the kickbacks of nature.


The eagle flying mid-range between the burning
and the hills, waiting for the dash of rodents
and even reptiles who are this way and that
with the late heat, the dry, but shorter days.

The eagle flying mid-range between the burning
and the hills, watches its eyrie flamed-out of the tall tree
that has survived the bushfire seasons to be ashed
so the tractor can get a clear run on profit’s ingress.


In Ireland it’s blasphemy to question God’s
ironies of fire and water — the conflagration
that has turned even bones to ash. It’s all
goodness on the statute books, and local
spirits know what’s good for them
as the earth is made bare; even
that place of the Saint Finbarr —
Gougane Barra — watching the mountains
in flames, the vegetation rising as cinders
to make false haloes over the lake.
Gorse fires without restraint.
Consequences. Subtexts. Blasphemies.


Harvest of flame.
Time and a place.

Now a consequence
for nature that has

nowhere else to go.
Harvest of flame,

the world’s punishment
for suggesting ‘restraint’.

All that precedent
lost to the industrial

grotesque — the natural,
the ritualistic, all dragged

into the coffers; the products
we ‘need to have’, force-

fed, choking on abundance,
harvest of flame.


Sick moon? What is
the magpie mimicking?

And the mistletoebird?

The trees knocked over by the digger
and burnt — we saw it happening.

No gathering to stop it.

Nothing. No case
to answer. Sick moon?

You rise large and diminish.
Consortiums and governments

are aiming to mine you soon. Soon.
Burnt off constantly by the sun.

Tawny frogmouths
suffocated by smoke.

On the moon, too — see them fly past,
and fall. Less gravity, but enough

to bring down, to hold the dead.
Evening star — fire-starter?

Tawny frogmouth — smoke ghost.

The gods are alive and walking
and flying and swimming and crawling

and existing on the earth — today,
and for the last couple of months,

Gods here have been burnt out
under the camouflage of burning-off,

of adding trace elements to a soon-to-be
heavily fertilised soil, to remove

the inconvenient chaff piles
and trees, of replacing

fences with new fences
and clearing vegetation

as process. These live gods
made dead. Multiplying

but finite blasphemies.
Evening star — fire-starter?

Nocturnal day-walkers.

Bruised clouds.


You dare compare your acts
with the use of fire by Aboriginal people
as a means of being one with their country?

You dare compare your acts
with the use of fire by Aboriginal people
as you burn country you stole from them?

You dare compare your acts
with the use of fire by Aboriginal people
when you divide and conquer, leave nothing alive?


Smoulder. Rouse. Conflagrate.
It’s easy to balance the equation.
Emulsified testament suspension.
Conflagrate. Rouse. Smoulder.

            John Kinsella