(after the fire).
I shall not long dwell on the fire itself.
For if you were here during those days,
or indeed the great fire of forty summers past,
then your vivid memory does not want
for my pale impressions.
And if you weren’t here,
then I fear my words
will never do this time justice.
Suffice to say the spectacle was breathtaking
in every terrible sense.
The legendary fires of Tokyo, London and Rome
unleashed together in a single sweep of ancient forest.
Spilling, swelling, swirling, spitting, snarling,
scrambling and stumbling
to the shores of Elysium itself.
At every dawn the hot North wind rallied flames
afresh to drown the sun and,
after another day of tormented frustration,
a blood moon rose to witness the eerie glow
of sleepless creeping embers against the midnight cloud.
And was reborn every hour,
each time stronger.
When the smoke-sea finally beat retreat before
the endless blue sky,
we all inhaled deeply, greedily
And took stock of our wounds.
Our hallowed mountains and coastal plains reduced
To stick, stone and shadow.
Home and store, barn and field, all horizon laid bare and black.
There should be laments
And there were.
Men have fought and died
Over less scorched earth than this.
And fight, we did.
Our champions were not gods,
But men and women.
Families and volunteers.
Teachers, Students, Storekeepers, Farmers, Homemakers,
Realtors and Chefs.
Builders, Sailers, Hoteliers, Accountants,
Butchers, Woodsman, Fisherman, Sportsmen and Women
and even a Dentist, stood in harms way.
Their clothes putrid with smoke, soot and sweat.
Brave boots melting in their service.
These heroes held the line,
But the heavens turned the tide.
This was so much bigger than us.
But one soul lost,
Nor flesh consumed.
Proof positive that
Whatever Gods to whom you pray,
Look kindly upon us still.
For of what was lost and what remains,
The better off we are.
The Tasmanian family gathered and embraced
To make right the wrongs of fire and fate.
Though grateful for kind gifts and wishes from
Friends on distant shores,
No pity is sought or accepted here.
Our sense of humour survived the worst.
Looking back to the very centre of the
Firestorm’s eye, it was still in many ways,
Even at furnace mouth,
A typical Australian summer.
Breathless and parched – residents and guests
Sought refuge from the scalding heat by the
Shores of the Tasman sea.
Every man, woman, child and wombat
Rushing to the beach.
And with the power poles legless, strung up and
Twisted in their own rigging,
We rolled out our trusty barbecues for supper
And surveyed the destruction with burnt chops and cool beer
While listening to the Ashes test on car radios
Next to the Bay of Fires and,
In our relief,
Relished the irony.
And though, in the aftermath, some wild Tasmania
Crayfish perished in a blaze of fresh garlic and sweet chilli,
Everyone agreed this was probably for the best.
The East Coast rises quickly and quietly from the ruinous ash.
Suddenly, wherever we turn, there is beauty in astonishing quantity.
Even where the fire raged at its worst,
What scar remains?
On this evergreen island, we now enjoy the
Surprise rust and old gold of autumn myth just in
Time for the season.
No fire could not lay waste to our enduring treasure.
Already the great host of elder trees are re-sleaved
In verdant tinsel as our mysterious forests,
Dark and green, return to full plumage.
The native grass and moss have shrugged off the insult
And to black gum, blue gum, leatherwood, orchids and oak
The welcome blaze has brought the very opposite of death
New life is everywhere, directionless and wonderful.
Our home is alive with beauty.
By nature’s hand we are blessed again and twice more blessed.
Blushing rocks stand sentry
Along white-gold beaches,
Dusted with cinnamon shells.
Beyond the bounty our unfettered ocean offers
We accept the salute of gypsy whale caravans,
An army chorus of well-fed seals
And ten thousand penguin ambassadors of goodwill.
The glorious avian legion
Of parrots and songbirds
Thread colour and music through the air
And when the sun retires beneath a pink halo,
Devils, quolls and other curious creatures of the
Night emerge amongst secret valleys
As old as time to explore this sacred earth anew.
This land, this southern island, this coast where
The mountains meet the sunrise sea,
Is rich with life and bold with promise.
Our annual harvests strain tables of plenty.
Delicious berries, apples of the tree and earth,
Milk and honey, wine and cheese,
The happy envy of all.
I would not insult the Shah Jehan,
But I have stood
Before his peacock throne unbowed
And I can tell you once and truce,
Where I stand now,
“If there is a heaven on earth it is this,
Oh it is this,
Oh, it is this”.
Our road-signs may yet be bent and blistered but
The welcome is still warm.
Welcome to the East Coast of Tasmania.
Welcome to our home.
Bradley Trevor Greive (Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 1970). Publicista, escritor, fotógrafo y activista por la conservación de la naturaleza.