by Maher   Jan 4, 2020

There was a time when the sky was blue,
the air was clear and the dams were full.
Roos frolicked in bush lands with no end
as drop bears lay in Eucalyptus beds.
The Murray ran free with water to spare
and farms were lush with livestock in pairs.
Forests and beaches of unrivaled beauty;
national parks and heritage sites - all well and plenty!

Then a dipole shift in the ocean out West
bid the rain adieu, save some drops at best.
The sun moved closer as the water ran away
leaving plants to dry and farms to fray.
Dams ran poor and run poorer still
as the bush hoards it's rich, leafy fuel.
Then came a spark, with arson to come
and thus we cower in fear of the sun.

The sky now red and full of fumes
as the smoke billows high in ashy plumes.
The horizon, lit in an eerie orange,
as the front closes in on the coastal fringe.
Firemen, laymen, buckets and hoses,
planes, trucks, tankers and choppers:
they're of almost no use on days like this,
when it's 45 degrees and a Southerly hits.

Gusts of wind blow through the Southern coast,
from Bega to Nowra; they've lost all hope.
It won't be long before Wollongong goes
and the fires knock upon the doors of home.
They've burned for months like never before;
four million hectares and they pang for more.
The air is ash, the winds are dry,
and as of late, seventeen have died.

Roads are blocked, towns surrounded by flames.
The only refuge being beaches and bays.
The burdened stand upon blackened sands
with their backs to the waves and eyes on their land.
They watch as the blaze burns up to the shore
as it takes their homes, memories and all.
They've nothing left, save for embers and dust,
their livelihoods lost like steel to rust.

And here we stand amidst a tragic disaster
that our leader was warned of well in the past.
But nothing was done, instead, a generous cut
to the funding of those who fight at the front.
A dismal reaction to a national crisis
that left three of our hero firemen lifeless.
What more would it take to shift your mind from profits?
A holiday to Hawaii as your state burns to bits?

Our heroes are tired, drained and sore,
yet they all soldier on, always ready for more.
The burn of our Summer only fans the flames;
still they keep battling on, not for money or fame.
Their homes, they've lost, yet they fight on for others.
Their time, not paid, yet they struggle for hours.
Fighting the front of a fiery red hell
until the blessed rains come and all becomes well.


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Latest Comments

  • 1 year ago

    by Em (marmite)

    This actually breaks my heart...

    Stay safe x

    • 1 year ago

      by Maher

      Apologies Em :(

      There's summer rain forecast though so hopefully it'll get better!

  • 1 year ago

    by Saerelune

    Such a detailed and strong poem. It strikes a perfect balance between factual documentation and an emotional outcry, full of pain and frustration. Really appreciated the rhythm to keep the narrative engaging next to the realistic imagery.

    Hope things are looking better at the moment...

    Congrats on your win!

    • 1 year ago

      by Maher

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it.

      Things are hopeful with some decent rain forecast over the coming week - a very welcome thing for sure! Thanks again :)

  • 1 year ago

    by Maple Tree

    Dear Maher,

    I have a dear friend of 20 years that lives in Wollongong, she has been keeping me posted of her safety. My heart has been with all of you and daily I have been kept informed by my friend Sue. Reading this poem I clearly felt the sorrow and loss, I cant begin to imagine how everyone is feeling but I felt it within this beautiful poem. Hugs to you my friend

    • 1 year ago

      by Maher

      Thank you Andrea, very much appreciated.

      Some positive news for you though, it rained last night and the weather seems to be slowly reverting from dry to neutral conditions. The rain has helped the firefighters somewhat and the RFS commissioner believes we've seen the worst of it and that things should start to get better. The major fires in Wollemi (NW of Sydney) and the Blue Mountains (West) should hopefully be contained by the end of this week. The Shoalhaven fire heading toward Wollongong is still active, but the RFS & Fire NSW services have dedicated more resource to that front and it's currently being controlled. Friday could prove to be an issue, but nothing like New Year's Eve.

      And of course, thanks to the American and Canadian firemen and women who gave up their holidays with their families to help us. We are incredibly grateful for their sacrifice and service :)

  • 1 year ago

    by Poet on the Piano

    Maher, as always, your narration is incredibly clear and brimming with emotion. I cannot imagine the devastation, just as I cannot imagine the outrage at the prime minister and the decision to refuse funds to these heroes.

    I truly cannot imagine such a loss, such a fear, and such endangerment. A "red hell" indeed. I thought about the title too. It's so simple, it seems understated but like it works for the poem since it encompasses a great deal more than just the "flames". It tells of the pain, anguish, everything of the country and its people. And the cycle through which the politicians don't seem to be learning to have done something ahead of time.

    • 1 year ago

      by Maher

      Thank you, I'm glad some of the emotion came through. Thankfully I'm in a safer area compared to others, but there's still a very real threat to Sydney if the heatwaves & winds keep up. It certainly is scary, but much more so for the towns in this poem who have been decimated and evacuated further South from here.

  • 1 year ago

    by Everlasting

    I’m not fascinated with the title but the entire poem is epic. My favorite from yours.

    • 1 year ago

      by Maher

      Thanks, glad you like it. Open to suggestions for the title before the fires reach here :)

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