CONTENT WARNING: Poem explores the destruction of nature, homes, life and animals during the bushfire crisis in Australia, still currently happening.
The day I was Ꙩ\born/Ꙩ a terrible →sadness← descended upon the ⃝\earth/⃝.
Their ⌂homes⌂ are now piles of dust, coughing smoke and ⸙\smoldering/⸙. I can hear the ●dead● mounds whimpering softly over the ⌐agony⌐ of their ₼scorched₼ memories.
Silicone and Ꝝ\metal/Ꝝ melt at my touch and ≈\water/≈, my enemy, is as ineffective as paracetamol is for cancer.
In other lives I was a ◊cleanser◊, cleaner, ჻\creator/჻. Now I am known as ●pain●.
I ₴consume₴ old world growth and \belch/ an acrid ᲯhalitosisᲯ and spew ●black● ash and cinders into the ≈winds≈.
My appetite is \disgusting/, a glutton I am. I ᶿbingeᶿ on all I can reach. My π\speed/π gives me more and more to ͠\feast/͠ on, evermore feeding my →rage←.
My plumes ♀mingle♂ with the ≈breath≈ of the cities, car exhausts, ⌂factory⌂ fumes merge with my ≈exhalations≈.
I used to be ☼worshipped☼. When the ჻first჻ of my ancestors was discovered, there was ◊jubilation◊. Now I have brought ●humiliation● to my kind.
◙\Mummified/◙ corpses of species ▪litter▪ the once mulch rich forest floor. ჻Crisp჻ charred remains mimicking the Դ\ancients/Դ from Pompeii.
All fear me, although some still →TRY← to fight me, cowering only as they ≈inhale≈ my suffocating ≈breath≈.
A taker of ⃝worldly⃝ chattels bestow ●agony●, misery and ●torment●.
⸙Trees⸙ rip and scream and ░crumble░ as I devour them. ♀Creatures♂ scurry and birds →screech← as they attempt and fail to ●flee● my path.
Tradition links me with the ☻winter☻ solstice, but it was ☼summer’s☼ longest day where I took hold and decided to ⃝reshape⃝ human’s future.
Fame is all I feel, known for what I do, what I have ȜbecomeȜ. The taste of ash and ●despair● is certainly a pleasant one.
Flesh, skin, fur, ⸙feathers⸙, blood add spice to my meals.
My appetite is →insatiable←. I feed, devour and ●destroy●. I adore this venture, this ◊destruction◊. How it brings me such ☺joy☺.
I’ve tasted ⸙saplings⸙ and undergrowth and my appetite became →voracious←, anything in my vicinity is ….
They will speak of my ⅏time⅏ for years to come. They’ll ●lament● my scent, my stains, my scars. Cry over who and ?what? I’ve taken and lay ◊blame◊ for what I have done. And I am not done….
‘Australia Burns’ is a hybrid piece, and was a collaborative effort. Tony Messenger and Kayla Milaudi met up on a day, thick with smoke & wrote alternate/simultaneous sentences about the horrific fires currently burning in Australia. The sentence order was then randomly generated into the above text. Plain font is Messenger, Italics is Milaudi.
Photos by Tony Messenger – all taken in November/December 2019 and featuring You Yangs Regional Park, Silvan Reservoir Park and Hepburn Regional Park.
Tony Messenger is an Australian writer, critic and interviewer who has had works published in many places including Overland Literary Journal, Southerly Journal, Mascara Literary Review and Concrescence. He blogs about translated fiction and interviews Australian poets at Messenger’s Booker and can be found on Twitter @messy_tony
Kayla Milaudi is an opinionated female from Abbotsford, Victoria, Australia, working for a financial conglomerate. She has a special relationship with the sun. Queen makes her cry.
Cover Photo Credit: Kylie Supski