Birthed in a blood-orange haze,
a torture of sound batters my ears;
the front-running wind – that howling dervish,
whipped into a firestorm frenzy.
Potato-and-earth invades our tub, drifting down
from wet sacks above. A fort, Mum said,
before she left. She’s thrice returned,
refilling her bucket to battle the Embers.
I hold my wooden sword close
in case they come for my brothers.
As I wander the rubble, a stone chimney topples;
my boots are cloaked with death. By one cracked toe,
life pushes through: a red-orange hood,
tipped with gold. Christmas Bells ring
in my playground of ash.
Inspiration: I was just a boy when the Ash Wednesday bushfires tore through the hills of my childhood, destroying everything in their path. On a blistering hot summer day during one of the worst droughts in Australia’s history, fierce winds stripped about 50 thousand tonnes of topsoil from Victoria’s Mallee and created a huge dust cloud that blanketed the sky, plunging everything into darkness. The wind’s roar and eerie glow of the sun are forever etched in my memory.
It was a very strong sensory experience. In particular, I have always been struck by the similarities between the colours of destruction and those of rebirth. The sun’s blood-orange, bushfire haze and the colours of the Christmas Bell flower, with their red, orange and yellow hoods that herald rebirth and renewal are both similar and worlds apart.