I: The Burning 1931
Way back when, February, a muddied lane:
the flare of a gas lamp by papers
igniting as the lounge lights up
brilliant in incandescence, steaming
the rank smell of water, river-drawn,
spilling slip-lipped in sweaty hands
by bucket-to-bucket willing workers
praying for bucketing rain.
A publican futilely dodges
the fired boards crack-cackling
at children shaken from alley games,
his red eyes weeping an ashen-faced
ooze, viscous and bitter
as creamed milky pine sap
seeping from a trunk.
Over charred wrinkles of old iron
once drawn into town by teamsters,
spores of carnelian rust eat outwards,
feasting before the regrowth.
II: Street Party 2002
Back when, December, a closed street:
the burning air thick with fireworks
spits at the glare of the gas jet
below spluttering sausages
sizzling in the sour scent of
fourex middies, warmed too quickly
by hands perspired with the premonition
of a heavy wet about to fall.
A plumber sits astride
a firetruck wow-wow-wowing
to children diving for iceblocks,
his red suit staining an elasticated
beard, as filamented and fanciful
as fibre-optic satinash flowers
sprouting from a trunk.
From remnants of rainforest,
drawn into town by truckloads,
a red cedar storey crowns
the party’s hospitable huddle.
III: The Burning 2011
Back then, September, a jammed road:
a red blaze over corrugated tin rooftops
like a cane fire too close for comfort,
flicks its burning brush starwards,
painting a challenge to the foaming arc
of a streaming jet hissing water,
the crimson hose held flicking and wilful
by gloves burnished with rubied beads.
A passer-by slips between
parked cars, air-con throb-throbbing
at children strapped in seats,
his maroon-skinned mobile
held high above helmeted heads,
glinting enflamed as fleshy figs
clustered on a trunk.
Against the white hot heart
drawing the town to witness,
carmine timbers totter, creaking:
felled to create this clearing.
IV: Streetscape 2012
Here now, October, a vacant lot:
the greying coalescing clouds
spit down a sprinkle on a sad sign
promoting the hottest block in town
for one with a burning desire to build,
the joke gone cold as cinders clump
in handfuls like cauterised carcinomas
from scorched sun-weathered skin.
A pub stares untouched,
silent in cyberspace, staring
at children surfing memories,
the googled street view on-screen
shrunk to a satellited phantom
like a flickering ghost orchid
on a rotting trunk.
Before the backdropping slopes
drawn behind forest fringing the town,
auburn newly flushing leaves
shiver in a plot, ripe for auction.