Dragon’s Breath

Cudlee Creek Fires, December 2019

la    la   la 
packing a few things 
in the line of wildfire

erratic wind 
with embers, ash, and birds

to the west
the billowing smoke 
of our undoing

my dead mother lights a candle
‘there’s not so much darkness…’
she says

crumpled buildings 
the grandchild’s face
is white with shock

from blackened trees 
the charcoal lament 
of crows

how the very air 
hurts the throat
black lands

metal kitchen knives
standing to order 
in the ash

how delicate
the forty years of journals 
in leaves of ash

any life at all
inch ant 

its face like a spring sun
first flower

with eyes that are not wary 
a kangaroo in the burnt land

tears —
they don’t solve anything
fire fungi

through the counting 
of losses

for months
walking like a mummy
through the gardens 
of kindness

all the good hearts 
help us through this
I tear my skin on a stick

covid fear 
I look at my hands

weeding with tweezers
so long in the wilderness 
the wilderness is in me

this grant, that grant
we put our life back together
bit by bit

tired as a wet rag 
I’m sick of it all
twenty twenty

shards of 
a five hundred year old ceramic jug
its glaze still green

as if the world 
prepared for this
I hold the ones I love


Still trying to make sense of it all by heaving it into art. (By the way, to me, the word ‘art’ means all art forms, including poetry.)

I call this a haiku series but many of them don’t quite stand up as haiku. They don’t even stand up as senryu. But that is irrelevant. They say what I want. As is the case with all my haiku, I will probably continue to tweak them over a period of, well, the course of my natural life. Perhaps those that fall short will get more refined, or maybe will fit even less into the so-called traditional structure of English language haiku. Do you care? I don’t. I want them to carry the source feeling to the reader. That is what is important.

I wrote a series like this after the death of my mother. I think the form suits that weird out-of-yourself feeling of trauma or grief, when you are sleepwalking awake. You see the world in great clarity, but it is like you are completely detached.

a stranger’s nail polish
the magnifying glass 
of shock

And re the recovery, things are going extremely well, not that it means I can stay out of bed all day. Hana (my daughter) has finished the plans, and they are through council, and we have signed a contract! Various grants, not to mention the amazing generosity of souls like so many of you, who gave to our GoFundMe, and other more intimate ways, and less intimate ways (Red Cross for e.g.), and the insurance, have meant we can build a lovely little house, with two small studio spaces.

It will be built to a higher bushfire rating than we are obliged to do. (Effectively, we want a bunker.) It will be off grid, powered by solar. I hope one day to augment that, if we feel we need it, with wind, because if it’s not sunny where we live, it is almost certainly windy! Going off grid, for us, is not a lot more expensive because of the cost involved with getting re-connected.

And some more super-exciting news! We may get a grant that will allow us to build two small shed studios on the slabs at the bottom. It’ll be just like old times, without the junk!

Mentally, I must tell you, it is very hard. There is just so much to think about all the time, so it is exhausting. I am on a few FaceBook groups and everyone feels the same. What we need is to hug each other. It is not the best time to need hugs. I think it is normal after any grief to be tired though. Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t the subconscious just wanting time to process. Many ordinary people are going through this as a result of all of the changes of covid, and I feel for you all.

As for us, one step at a time. Our gorgeous builder hopes to get us in by Christmas!

first mess
in a dreamed house
the detritus
of paper stars

10 thoughts on “Dragon’s Breath

  1. I hug you
    with the warm arms
    of my words

    warm arms
    that wrap themselves
    around distance

    to draw you
    into them like this,
    like this.

  2. It’s beautiful, Belinda, and the feelings come through. Like you, I don’t think the form always matters. I discovered your poetry at the exhibition at Lobethal soon after the fires and have looked forward to seeing your latest writing ever since. Thank goodness for the gift of words, in which we can process endings and beginnings and create a thing of beauty at the same time.
    I wish you well in the building of your new home.

    1. Thank you An, you’ll find a few more poems and posts under this one. For various reasons I had the poem from the exhibition pinned to the top of the blog. So a few people missed the more recent ones. Thanks for the feedback and we’ll wishes

  3. This brought on a short crying fit here in SA as well. I’m glad of the progress you guys are making. Your having to be in bed to rest, to let the process of grief run its course. To have lost everything. Hang in there.

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