Wednesday 14 October 2015


“The fire which enlightens is the same fire which consumes.” - Henri Frédéric Amiel

This week, Poets United has as its theme, “Fire”. Whether seen as friend or foe, fire always has to be respected as it can burn more easily than it can warm.

Bushfires in Australia are frequent events during the hot months of the year, due to Australia’s mostly hot, dry climate. Each year, such fires impact extensive areas. While they can cause property damage and loss of human life, certain native flora in Australia have evolved to rely on bushfires as a means of reproduction, and fire events are an interwoven and an essential part of the ecology of the continent. For thousands of years, Indigenous Australians have used fire to foster grasslands for hunting and to clear tracks through dense bush (see here for more details).

Major firestorms that result in severe loss of life are often named based on the day on which they occur, such as Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday. Some of the most intense, extensive and deadly bushfires commonly occur during droughts and heat waves, such as the 2009 Southern Australia heat wave, which precipitated the conditions during the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in which 173 people lost their lives. Other major conflagrations include the 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires, the 2003 Eastern Victorian alpine bushfires and the 2006 December Bushfires.

Victoria has seen the majority of the deadliest and largest bushfires in Australia, most notably the 2009 Black Saturday fires, where 173 people were killed, around 2,000 homes and structures were destroyed, towns were gutted, and some, such as Marysville, were destroyed. Global warming is increasing the frequency and severity of bushfires and will lead to increased days of extreme fire danger.

Perhaps the most distressing thing about bushfires is that some of them are deliberately lit by arsonists, firebugs, demented individuals who get a thrill out of seeing the flames leap up and destroy all in their path. In Australia, we fear and respect fire as it can cause destruction and death and endless misery. Firebugs have no place amongst us…

Drought and Fire

The demon lit the match and hell began
As soon as fire started in the tinder-dry bushland.
Parched earth and dead grass stretch listlessly
As heat waves shimmer in the distance
And oppressive heat mingles with the pungency of smoke.

The crackle of the flames consumes all other sounds
Leaves sublimate as the wave of towering fire touches them.
The wind roars, and the conflagration burns, destroys all,
While in its wake, nothing but ashes, blackened earth
And shells of gutted homes and stumps of trees.

The sun is red, the sky is gray in a vision of apocalypse
And as evening falls the dull infernal glow of bushfire
Colours even one’s thoughts incarnadine.
The embers fly and showers of sparks light up the sky
As fire spreads consuming all in its path.

A lack of water in the rivers of the heart,
A fire raging in the fevered brain,
Black charred remains and ashes in the soul:
The demon lights the match, the flames of hell burn on.


  1. Some stunning imagery in this piece - the most dangerous fires can be the ones which rage within...used correctly and respectfully any element enhances our more intuitive people well know..sadly the majority often seem to lack that insight...

  2. I can hear the match being drawn and sparking to life. An excellent response to the prompt both symbolically and in reality. A land learns to survive doesn't it tho man's carelessness inflicts much harm

  3. First of all, Nick, I enjoyed the information about bushfires in Australia. We have had some horrible fires this year here in the western USA, and western Canada has been besieged with them as well. There must be nothing more frightening than realizing one's home is on the verge of destruction...such a helpless feeling. You have portrayed well the arsonist who sets fires that rage and destroy. A 'demon' indeed, gaining joy from this 'vision of apocalypse.'

  4. Lovely writing... Could smell and hear and feel the fire.

  5. I don't know what to say of those humans who derive malicious pleasure out of bushfires started by irresponsible could they be.....however in hot season when the land becomes tinderbox the people need to be more cautious....the poem perfectly sketches the frightening scene of inferno....

  6. I remember the terrible Victorian bushfires and our own a couple of years ago in the Warrumbungles They are predicting bad ones this summer.They always happen in the school hols.Most are deliberately lit. Penalty should be Life sentences in prison or preferably the Greek way...tie them to a rock and let the eagle sort out the rest.Satan is not a little red man with a pitchfork and horns He is alive and well settled comfortably in humans who do this sort of thing.

  7. You have made me see the apocalypse caused by devils in our midst--red flame contrasted against black and ashy remains. Indeed, you have made me see the inside of the arsonist who must undergo a fiery internal destruction to light the match. That last stanza took me by surprise--a surprise that is the essence of good poetry.

  8. I can almost feel its crackle in this poem. This summer we had forest fires due to the intense heat and it was terribly sad, yellow skies, mountainsides burning. I like your closing stanza especially, a lack of water in the rivers of the heart - very beautiful - char and ashes in the soul. Very cool.

  9. Wow, that sounds like some of the fires we get here in Southern California - esp in drought years, like the past 4. Excellent.

  10. Apocalyptic indeed! Well described, and what a telling last line.

  11. I think it's quite effective that you open and close in a cyclical fashion. Poignant.

  12. Victoria certainly has had more than its fair share of bush fires. The eucalyptus bush land however does have the ability to survive and regrow. It is unfortunate that often we build homes in an unsuitable environments and fail to punish severely enough the perpetrators of such arson to deter others repeating the offence. A graphically explicit poem.

  13. I can see your anger and sadness about these senseless burners. Thank you for the information and for your passionate poem.

  14. Never will I understand the ways of the arsonist...

    Fiery Voices