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David Adès: Premonitions of Catastrophe

So much smoke in the air, in our lungs,

the smell of it on our clothes,
the fine drift of ash across the patio,
inscriptions of blaze on our lives,            
the orange-hazed sun, the white skies.
The skywriter was writ large for all to see
and it was no advertisement, 
no declaration of love against a deep blue sky.
This was not the burning of witches or heretics
but the burning of a continent,
great retreats of forests, wildernesses, habitats,
places our hearts went to regenerate 
turned to cinder and ash,
turned to black stumps.
The alarm bells are ringing.
A hundred canaries in a hundred mines have died. 
We falter as we carry on. 
See the precipice? It dares us to look at it.
It is high and the fall is great. 
Still, we cannot look. We tremble and look away.
A scourge is upon us:
scourge of population pressure,
scourge of proximity,
scourge of heedlessness,
scourge of inevitability

scourge of finger-pointing, of blame, 
of inadequate preparation and inadequate response, 
of irresponsibility, of risk-taking,
scourge of the first wave and the second and the third
scourge that may not end.
That life we few of the most privileged generation had,
that wonderful life we took 
for granted and thought we could pass to our children,
that life where we treated the world as our oyster
on our planes, on our cruises, our endless travels
criss-crossing the globe, that life
is having a funeral none of us can attend.

David Adès is an Australian poet whose books include Afloat in Light (UWA Publishing (2017).

Copyright 2020 David Adès

A kangaroo rushes past a burning house in Lake Conjola, Australia, Dec. 31 2019. (Matthew Abbott/The New York Times) 

2 comments on “David Adès: Premonitions of Catastrophe

  1. smithdaniell
    July 7, 2020

    Thank you for this timely commentary: you certainly use words, images, and negative space (dare I say white space) most effectively. I like it. Its incendiary tone rocks.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Barbara Huntington
    July 7, 2020

    And now the tundra burns, too. I will repost. Perhaps a poem will reach those who refuse to see the science.

    Liked by 1 person

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