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Published 20th January, 2020 in Behind the Book

By Paul Hetherington

Tumultuous, for months

the aftermath of fire—

burnt stumps, spindles of trees,

ash rising on the slightest wind,

wafting, sinking

like particles of memory,

nights charred with recollection,

cries chasing conversations,

and incalescent weather

like 40 days of sunstroke

darkening the district.

The local store piled its verandah

with new goods,

stashed beer and milk

in its freezers. Its generator groaned

and, where the fire had caught it,

its west side leaned

into black-toothed grimace.

Someone picked up Jimmy’s kite

twenty kilometres from the township.

Someone else wrote letters

to every politician in the district.

A teenage girl was seen

by three men walking

on the road out of town

although no girl lived there.

Rain came in drops like stones

clagging ash, banging roofs,

making molten dreams.

This poem was taken from Fire: a collection of stories, poems and visual images, which we originally published in 2013 in response to the Margaret River fires in 2011.

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