Death, thy name is bushfire

This poem was written in response to this challenge from the D’verse site : Bring us to a time and place in your poem. Give us the smells, sights and sounds of your setting.

The Fourth Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death,

astride his pale green horse,

rides over the hill

bringing Hades with him,

and leaves the embers of trees and dwellings

in the mouths of dreamers and grafters.

At the relief centre, ash-grey ghost faces atop automaton bodies

straggle in to be recorded as being worthy of pity.

Fresh-faced city social workers wait in vain for custom

in their caravan with a sign offering ‘COUNSELLING’.

Later, they are offended when the women, farmers all,

reject communal ablution blocks and craft classes

and ask for fencing and sheds

(clearly bullied by their husbands).

The strong go on being strong

but the frail begin to unravel

when the very earth beneath their feet betrays them.

The peat beneath the topsoil remains alight

and as, one by one, the wooden fence posts fall,

the strugglers also start to burn from the feet up.

In time, God is back in his Heaven,

and the paddocks turn a deep green

as if to cry victory over Death’s horse.

But the smell of Hell is primal,

and is etched into the people’s nostrils

until the day they die.

23 thoughts on “Death, thy name is bushfire

  1. Whoa! Such crazy imagery here especially in this:

    “Later, they are offended when the women, farmers all,

    reject communal ablution blocks and craft classes

    and ask for fencing and sheds

    (clearly bullied by their husbands).

    The strong go on being strong

    but the frail begin to unravel

    when the very earth beneath their feet betrays them.”

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Truly apocalyptic writing and sending out a very important message in these troubled times. ‘the smell of Hell is primal’ – some of those detached from the effects of the climate crisis need a strong does of smelling salts!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It sounds like an insiders view of wildfires run amok, Doug. This part is truly haunting to me:
    “when the very earth beneath their feet betrays them.
    The peat beneath the topsoil remains alight
    and as, one by one, the wooden fence posts fall,
    the strugglers also start to burn from the feet up.”
    I don’t know how anyone could get over what you describe in your poem. Frank Prem wrote a book of poetry on the Australian fires, both from his own experience of it but from others’ who contacted him and shared their stories. The thought that these things can happen again is terrifying.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Many thanks. You are right; like the smell, the haunting goes on forever. We have been lucky not to have lost our home in this way but I have spent many months with survivors helping them re-build their lives and homes. And, unfortunately, for a whole range of reasons it will happen again and again if humans don’t change their behaviour.

      Liked by 2 people

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