Big red





4 MARCH 2014



Summer is under foot again. The soles of Australian’s shoes melt into the tar for a solid six hours a day.

​// Australian Bushfires // Poem





Summer is under foot again. The soles of Australian’s shoes melt into the tar for a solid six hours a day. This in itself isn’t a concern. This kind of heat is the same kind of heat that’s been scorching the landscape since well before the settlement of white man.


No, the heat isn’t the concern here.


For months, years, perhaps even decades in some places, there’s simply been no rain. Years of drought and the trees and scrub are used to a good soaking from a summer storm. You know the kind. The ones you can set your watch to.


No the heat isn’t the concern. No rain.


Imagine a box filled with the most pristine tinder. The kind that, with a simple spark, could whoosh into flames in an instant…Our trees looked like that, felt like that. Sucked dry of every drop of moisture and stood tall and helpless against any amber.


No. the heat isn’t the concern.


A faint funnel of smoke from a ridge on the horizon and shivers would run down spines. No water, no rain.


As many knew it would, the tinder box blew. Four bush-hardened blokes with a hose weren’t going to be much of a match of big red.


Those volunteers in yellow too. They tried. We tried. Some died.


There was no fucking rain.


Despite the wave of prayers, no one’s God arrived. I guess their invites got lost somewhere between the tears and screams.


Australians wept. The world wept.


No number of millions raised by the glitterati on their phones was going to control this beast. And for four long months we burned.


No rain.


While the web lit up with fury and debate, a third of the country turned to ash. Our national emblems, those cute, cuddly little buggers decimated. Incinerated alive. Poor things never stood a chance. It’s not the heat you see, there was no rain.


The Pacific Ocean. You know the one you see on all the postcards? The Pacific became a refuge, and thousands fled from shore like they were retreating from a war they wanted no part of. I guess in a way they were. But with no motherships there to take them home, their retreat was merely temporary. And home? Well they got a pretty good view of those going up in smoke from behind the breakers.


There was just no rain.


When the flames eventually kissed the sea, leaving little in their wake, it was time to get back to it. Bury the dead. The cows and sheep. Those poor bastards. It takes a very big hole in the dirt to bury that much livestock. Nothing to be done though. Time to rebuild.


Please rain.


© Ben Whitmore, 2020.