Poem – Witness to fire

Fires are still burning here in SA. It’s strange, sad, numb, and uncomfortable watching it from the sidelines and knowing that for some this is the most devastating time. There’s been massive community support, people have flooded MP offices and rec centres with food and supplies. Organisations are being run off their feet trying to coordinate volunteers and donations. Most of us are horrified at what we are witnessing. We want to help. Sometimes we can, and often we have to wait until the first few days pass and less obvious needs become apparent. Anger, fear, and helplessness sit beneath numbness. It’s difficult to put words to. And that’s when I write.

Fire eats the world here
And people are running like ash blown on the wind.
Paddocks empty of living horses
The net a hive of chattering fear
I lose nothing but a little sleep.

If you look into my eyes, I’m not there
My tides are far out, and my shores are empty
Driving home, I’m trapped in silence
I want to find a quiet place to park and cry
But don’t. There’s no tears in me.
I haven’t earned them.

I stop to buy milk and walk the aisles
Looking for I don’t know what
There’s nothing that can fill this emptiness
I leave with only milk.

Somewhere there are people weeping
People bringing rations to the dispossed
A pain that screams when your whole world becomes
A crematorium for all the things you
Didn’t know that you could live without.

Here there’s just the fan, that clicks as it turns
The way laughter seems falsely bright
The sense of guilt
As your horror spews from the tv
Flickering light without sound
The radio intones the towns evacuated
Like a list of the dead.

I think of the homeless and how strange it must seem to them
To see so many so moved by the plight of so few.
How blessed we were who had something to lose
Say we who have lost nothing but our sleep.

I have an appointment tomorrow –
I’ve no words for it.
Calendars and diaries seem obscene
There’s just the night and my bewilderment
One hand raised to stop the noise.

My cat’s a shadow by my side
The ghosts of a thousand animals fly
Across the land tonight
Utterly silent
I lie here beneath my fan, ears straining for their cries –
I cannot hear anything at all.