fire plan lament

Back to: Surviving the Devil: A Song of Fire
Poem #23 from the ‘Surviving the Devil’ collection (unpublished)

I’ve heard
that my lifetime
has been a time of change

almost nothing
is the same now
as it was when I was born

cars and planes
take-away food
a computer and a phone
in every pocket

I couldn’t have imagined
when I was small
that living an alternate life
could replace the summer days
I spent walking in the bush
with my dog

but I suppose
you only really notice such things
when you look behind

we used to put the fires out
by hand
with wetted hessian bags
and knapsacks

somehow we always seemed
to beat them down
or douse them

bulldozers carved a nine foot break
to make the fires stop
it was rare for a blaze
to ever leap the line

Greenies weren’t impressed
of course
said they made an ugly gash
too wide
and to the detriment of nature

nowadays you can’t go in
without proper training
too many Fire-ies have been crisped
beside their machines

occupational health and safety
means most of the time
you have to stand back
and just let the red bastard run

a firebreak today
means trying to surround it
pushing the whole forest in
for acres all around
so eventually it’ll eat itself out
cannibalized and starved

but it does no good
not really
because the bush is drier
and these fires burn so hot

the wind will nurture a shower of sparks
for miles at a time

it doesn’t rain any more
when you need it to

once upon a time you knew
the change would come with good rain
the God-given rain
to cool it all down

but today I’m listening to Sky-Cranes
they’re dumping water
just the other side
of a brown billowing plume

they’re saying it again
on the radio

get your fire plans ready


all they really mean is

make up your mind
will you stay or will you go

and god bless you if you stay
when you’ve seen what happened
to those other poor try-ers last week
didn’t matter what they chose
they died just as dead whether at home
or out on the road

I’m tired of it
I wasn’t born to meet change
the way it’s happening now

I don’t learn very well
under the pressure of my arse
being half incinerated

if this is how it has to be
then there’s nothing new
that I really know

but I learnt at the breast
that you stay with it
right through to the very end

so this is my fire plan
stand and fight
take the worst that comes
if I’m still upright when it’s over
I’ll shout the beer
if not
I’ll see you on the other side
and it’ll be your turn
to buy

© Frank Prem, 2010

To Poem #24: hope the sky

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