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December 01st 2009 print

Jamie Grant

Summer in a Time of War

That summer made the suburbs seem a war zone.

Smoke columns appeared on the horizon

as if resulting from an explosion.

No-one could obtain much information

about the smoke which rose on the horizon.

One’s best guess would be that there were bushfires,

but nobody had given out information

as to the events in neighbouring shires.

Most assumed the smoke had come from bushfires

ignited by the summer’s ceaseless heat

somewhere among nearby woodland shires,

but rumours which were passed along the street

suggested it was more than summer’s heat

which sent those columns mounting in the sky.

There were all sorts of rumours in the street.

For many months the weather had been dry,

yet those columns of smoke which lined the sky

were circled by dark army helicopters.

The weather continued to be hot and dry,

and leaves in gardens turned as brown as leather.

Ominously circling helicopters

grazed the treetops beside the city ring-road.

Magnolia leaves the colour of leather

drooped from a tree which appeared to be dead.

Burning forests surrounded the ring-road.

Newly cleaned garments were freckled with ash.

Many trees in the gardens appeared dead.

Housekeepers scarcely dared hang out the wash.

Airways had been choked on the scent of ash,

but then a surprising cool change arrived,

and rain came to wash dry lawns, and to wash

the trees which could surely not have survived.

A soothing yet storm-bristling change arrived

in that summer which became a war zone.

We thought our magnolia had not survived

before it put forth blooms like an explosion.