They cram into cars
with children, dogs,
cats and birds in cages.
Some of them had time to
pack a few belongings into
their car, nothing else.
Others caught by the
speed barely get away
with the clothes they wear.
They spill out at
in community halls,
pour into rows of
tents on playing fields.
Refugees in their own
homeland, at war with
a vast giant inferno,
a towering conflagration.
Beautiful trees, graceful trees,
staunch giant trees grace the street,
dropping leaves in a natural carpet
on the ground, lining household gutters.
Far away flames soar high above
the bush, burning leaves fly high
disintegrating into many tiny embers
travelling kilometres across the sky ….
…. to the city street where their
tiny sparks drop on dead leaves
in gutters, burning inside roofs,
drop down on dead leaves on
the ground, spreading flames to
trees, shrubs, hedges, houses.
Houses are now heaps
of blackened rubble,
trees gaunt black skeletons.
A wall of flames metres high
roars through vegetation in this
southern native animal sanctuary
now turned death trap.
Human volunteers retrieve what
life they can: tree bound koalas,
baby kangaroos protected by their
mothers’ dead bodies, bleary wombats
seeking night dark refuge, terrified
lizards caught in hunting nets.
Rescued natives are fed at animal
hospitals, shelters, treated for
burns as fur, scales, limbs are
covered with healing lotions.
Baby kangaroos hang in rows of
towelling pouches, sleeping, feeding.
These indigenous creatures with
selective diets will survive in human
care over the months their habitats
and larders are regenerating.
Maybe birds who flew above
the inferno, snakes, and lizards
who sped along the ground will
survive to find new habitats.
But Australia’s self combustive plant
life will burn more frequently as our
planet’s climate continues to heat up.
destroying more wildlife, more species.
Our western continental neighbour
three hours away by plane sprawls
along the vast heaving ocean.
Its bush fires feature on our news
and internet to inform all those
with friends and relations living
over there, with commentary,
questions crossing through the ether.
Intermittent bush fires have
flared there over the years until
their recent proliferation , with
increasingly hotter temperatures
in burning dry air.
Now vast acreages of fire spread
along the central stretch of the
continent’s eastern coast, send
up thick clouds of smoke
clogged with ash and debris.
Along with our cyber news
strong south easterly winds blow
smoke, ash debris on to parts
of our own western coast.
We watch the news each night
beamed across the Tasman from
our vast western neighbour where
so many of our nearest and dearest
live, build up careers and businesses.
We see scenes of vast expanses
of scorched land, gaunt black trees,
blackened rubble of houses, sheds,
a blurred orange sun glowing through
thick grey smoke carrying whirling
embers, flying pieces of debris from
buildings, gyrating tree branches.
Now the fire service commissioner
at his press conference looks the
camera in the eye, tells his audience
“There are too many fires for us to
attend them all, even on your street.”
“Go as soon as you are told to go.”
Immigrants from Western Samoa
settled on our shaky isles after
World War II for work opportunities
children’s education, earnings to
send home to low income families.
They miss their families, island life,
so fly home on annual leave to visit.
Recently two of those visiting brought
to their island home rampant measles
recognisable only after the infectious
phase has passed as the rash appears.
It is surging through the island folk
felling babies, young children, as a
sparsely vaccinated population calls
us for more vaccination doses, bring
children to the vaccination clinics ….
…. and buries the epidemic’s
Six years ago my neighbour
then in paid employment
moved into the next door flat.
Her genetic lottery has debilitated
wracked her body so that for over
three years she has been at home
unemployed while her body fails her.
Her car is deteriorating also, needing
a new battery, maybe repairs around
its alternator, both far beyond the
reach of her sickness benefit.
She must wait at least eight years,
probably ten years for our retirement
pension to increase her income.
Major car repairs are beyond her
reach, beyond that of her family
members scattered around the region.
They visit occasionally around paid
jobs and raising small children.
Anxiously she calculates costs of
home deliveries, taxis to doctor,
library, supermarket, hospital.
Can she let her car go ?
Far from his home city a student
was not seen by staff in his residential
hall until other students found him
dead on his bed weeks after he died.
Another student was found dead on
his bed in a distant residential hall
ten days after his death. Horrifying !
Stories appear on the news media of
elderly people living alone found dead
in their flats days after death.
So worrying to have both young
and old dying unseen, invisible.
My neighbour in the next flat has
been inside for days on end this
winter unwell, exhausted,
medication giving little relief.
At last she accepted my phone
number, gave me hers, agreed to
pass my number to her brother.
When she is really unwell she wants
to sleep, turns off her phone.
Her niece with a key lives on
the other side of the city.
I have done as much as she will accept.
I still feel uneasy.
We with chronic health issues
visit doctor and nurses for medical
checks, prescription repeats. We are
told to eat healthily, exercise regularly.
Yet trying to discuss diet and exercise
with these health professionals brought
little reply except blank smiles, polite
listening noises. Other tell the same story.
This year our medical centre staff
attitudes are changing. “Upskilling”
they call it. They are recognising
skin cancers, so common among the
elderly who burnt in the sun years ago.
When I talk to my doctor now about
fitness classes and workouts, she
discusses it with interest, understands.
The diabetes nurse paid attention as I
told of the effects of my fitness
exercises, adjusting my diet.
What relief to have these conversations
as I integrate varied aspects of health
with better informed professionals.
We do step ups at fitness on a large
foot stool style miniature bench
higher than my doorstep.
I was achieving step ups both
forwards and sideways without
heaving myself up or flapping my
elbows as if I was on a swing.
Then a doctor removed a skin cancer
from deep inside my ankle. No jumping
or hopping on it for now he said,
let the flesh mend itself a while.
So I exercised fully without jumping
or hopping or pounding on that foot.
Three months later I am sure it has
had time for healing to be well done.
So I am jumping, hopping, pounding
on both legs, doing step ups on
that big high foot stool.
To my horror my legs find it very
difficult, will not spring up as
they used to. I push up with
weakened legs, arms flapping,
a very thorough work out.
For now I do step ups on my back
door step each day, hoping to
regain my legs’ former strength.
All because I had a skin cancer removed.