After a fitful few months of suffocating smoke, the fires have finally ceased, and the Australian summer is coming to a close.
We reminisce with four poems that memorialize the harrowing season.
As summer comes to a close, we reflect on the past few months with four Australian poets that have shared their pain, sorrow, and hope.
Deadly Bushfires and Brave Firefighters
Andrew Guild shares an ode to Australia’s firefighters, with a heart-wrenching depiction of a disaster that hit too close to home. He made a special mention to the volunteers who died during the fire season, Samuel McPaul, Geoffrey Keaton and Andrew O’Dwyer. Read the poem below:
The summer sun is blazing hot,
In the air there’s a smoky smell,
As fires are raging everywhere
And our land is as hot as hell
The inferno is quickly spreading,
For the bush is parched and dry,
Strong winds are blowing flames around,
And embers are falling from the sky
Batemans Bay is being threatened,
Mallacoota’s folk are on the beach,
Kangaroo Island is badly scorched –
It seems that nowhere is out of reach
A little baby is missing a father,
A sad parent grieves for a son,
As a firefighter has lost his life
Doing brave work which must be done
The fire brigades are working hard,
To protect all of us, they strive –
And whilst Australia now is hurting,
In the end, we will survive.
Tomorrow Is Hope
Blue Robinson’s poem is a heartfelt, aching response to the Australian bushfires. Written in rhyming prose, the verses are an ode to those who suffered this summer. The poem is recorded alongside the deep, tonal warbles of didgeridoo music and is available in podcast form on the ABC website.
“And when you get there / And look at the faces of those who fled / With smoke-stained clothes and eyes rimmed red / You know you’re not alone”
In Hidden beneath, Dominic Middleton personifies the Australian landscape, equating human trauma with the damage the fires ravaged across the nation. His portrait of “rumpled hills” and “weathered voice” summons images of old age and decay. Read it below:
Never did a fire so fierce
Blow across the land
That same land
His heart did grow
Nourished by his sweat and toil
The morning mist
Will hear his weathered voice
Call his horse
Has been scorched from its soil
And how that land
And blacked haze
With gusts of wind
And rumpled hills
The fathering face
Of this dead man
To my country, from an expat
Actor Ben Lawson describes the helplessness and simultaneous national pride experienced by so many Australians during the bushfire season. An expatriate, Lawson illustrates a “warm, familiar pride” of finding nuggets of native culture interwoven while abroad.
“I know I’m far away from her / right now when she is ailing / but I know I’ve never been so proud / to call myself Australian”.