One family’s aftermath 49

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In the wake of the devastating fires across Australia, we were sent in this heartbreaking poem by poet Jeff Cook. 

We kicked among the ruins of what was once our neighbour’s home

The ash that was a cupboard, the twisted kitchen chrome

The burned and blackened birdcage, crushed and lying on it’s side

With a crisp and toasted budgie, almost ash where it had died.

Remains of babies pusher, mostly molten to a blob

A television set imploded – survived by just a knob

The new refrigerator, the new freezer right beside it

With what last week was food, rotting stinking now inside it.

The devastated family stand like zombies in the mess

Barely noticing the cameras or the questions from the press

They pick up things forlornly, their eyes all red from tears

Surveying the remainder of their life for forty years.

The chain down by the kennel where the dog had used to live

Surrounded by a circle of the run his chain would give

But the dog had disappeared before the rest evacuated

They wondered if he’d come home, now the firestorm had abated.

The shed that was their dairy, now collapsed and tumbled down

The new chiller room that was their pride, now melted, burned and brown

The cows lie bloated, on their sides, two legs stuck in the air

As we looked upon the horror scene, our faces showed despair.

The air was calm and quiet, a far cry from what had been

For now no birds were in the trees, the trees no longer green

So many birds had perished, and their homes and food had gone

The deathly quiet mocked their fate, and would do from hereon.

The orchard and the grapevines had been burned beyond belief

No chance of them surviving to give some monetary relief

The tractor and most working gear would never work again

Yet the air was somehow sweeter with the smell of coming rain.

The cruel fate seemed to mock them as they glanced towards our place

Barely just a mile away, but a really different case

Our buildings were almost untouched, our cattle all alive

The fire swept all around us, yet somehow we’d survived.

They’d lost the car, the truck, the home, the pets, the photographs

The fire had written off the lot – almost their epitaphs

They evacuated in a fire truck, with only what they wore

Today they stood in all they owned, midst what they’d owned before.

The insurance man would come along with reams of forms to fill

And though he would feel sorry, he would be a bitter pill

For he’d need some proof of what things cost, some proof of what they’d had

Yet everything had gone, along with gifts from Mum and Dad.

If you’d suffered all that trauma, so much would be unknown

Can you imagine how you’d try to list what had been in your home

If all that had survived was just a kennel and a chain?

And do you think you’d have the courage, to start to build – again?

Share your thoughts below.

Guest Contributor

  1. Absolutely powerful and stirring. A painted word picture of what so many families of Australia go thru most years. Beautiful but sad

  2. That poem is really well written and very sad. Unless you have lost your home you cannot know the feelings of utter devastation and loss. Unfortunately some people say ….”its only bricks and tiles.” They wouldn’t have a bloody clue. I do.

    5 REPLY
    • My thoughts exactly. If you haven’t lived it don’t comment as you have no idea. Forty years on we are still needing things that were lost in fire and no way to replace them.

    • Maxine Hawking, – Know how you feel. Still go to get something and then remember that it is gone- 38 years- We had each other and the 3 boys and everyone said that was all we needed to start again. It helps but not everything can be replaced or rebuilt

    • They say time heals but im not so sure.
      I think we just build our lives around the loss but its never forgotten

    • Yes I read that fragments of trauma comes with us for the rest of our lives…think I agree with that.

  3. I cried when I read this. It took me back to Tasmania’s catastrophic fires of 1967 when so many lost everything, many died, many never recovered. It was never the same for my family. And yet, despite all that tragedy, people keep building in the bush.

  4. I would never be able to replace what I have as I have no idea where it is or what it is, I have huge cupboards in garage nearly as many as some kitchens have all full of my JUNK, photos, jewellery, doilies, supper cloths that my gran & Mum did, all my mums 50th Anniversary, engraved mugs & glasses , etc, & there gifts for their 90th birthdays so many things I havent seen in years that I hold very dear,plus my stuff, I am very sentimental, & this means more to me than a house, which I have insured for more than enough to build again,

  5. Yep the government has a lot to answer for here. I was at the meeting in Gympie when the government decided to sack the forestry and associated workers. No fire prevention done any more I fear. That was back in 1985.

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