RRRBBQDay2014_046The theme for this week’s JVG Radio Method poem is “On Fire“.

This reflection is loosely based on personal experience.

Sadly , no Ed on backing guitar this week

To play this poem directly in your browser – just click the “play” button below:

On Fire

Should I stay or should I go? Joey Strummer didn’t know – neither did I.

In the end it took days to make the decision logic would have resolved in a heartbeat.

A fire had been burning for over a week twenty five kilometres to our north as the crow flies – not that any crow would contemplate flying in this heat.

“Contained but not controlled” was the advice.
But what if the breeze freshened, or the wind changed direction, or embers fell in the adjoining State Forrest?

Still, twenty five kilometres seemed like a reasonable buffer, a notion soon to be exposed as delusional by Black Saturday, the tragedy unfolding two hundred kilometres to our north west.

At no stage were we in imminent danger but why take risks?

Surrounded by bush, at the top of a ridge, a meandering, corrugated, dirt track the only way out.

I was leaving, not because it was the sensible thing to do, rather because I had grown tired of trying to justify my reasons for staying.

Tired of getting up in the middle of the night to check the CFA website.
Tired of going outside to smell the air for any hint of smoke.
Tired of the niggling unease shadowing me, even into sleep.
Mostly though, I was tired of the unrelenting, energy sapping, heat.

Forty three degrees, forty four degrees, forty five degrees – the suffocating heat had eroded all resistance.

I threw a few clothes into the back of my old van, grabbed a guitar and a chainsaw, in the unlikely event there were any trees across the track and hung a wet towel from the hand grip above the passenger side window – budget air-conditioning, economical and totally ineffective.

In half an hour I was on the bitumen and the van stopped sliding around.

Just before dusk I entered a small village – blink and you’d miss it; a pub, petrol station, a couple of shops and the first of three surreal sights I would witness that evening.

Outside the village hall, on the median strip, a film set.
The crew, stripped down to shorts and singlets while the cast, holding umbrellas, were clad in great coats, oil skins, scarves, gloves and woollen jumpers.

A water tanker drizzled a steady mist, simulating rain, while banks of lights flooded the set, and must have pushed up the temperature up by at least another twenty degrees.

The middle of the most destructive heatwave ever recorded in this country, and here, in this tiny village, a little patch of winter.

Weaving my way back up into the hills, on a crest at the end of a long sweeping right hand bend, another bizarre sight – what appeared to be three sunsets.

The glow of two fires to the north and the suns retreat to the west.
If not for the compass on the dashboard I couldn’t have picked them apart.
In minutes three became two, revealing the imposters.

The next evening, back in Melbourne, I walked to the top of Red Bluff Cliffs, and gazed northwards.

The sky was burning, the not so distant glow reflected by the windows of city skyscrapers.

I wondered how something so devastating could look so beautiful.

At the base of the cliffs, two fishermen were nonchalantly casting and retrieving their lines, sharing beers and laughing, seemingly unaware or indifferent to what was happening.

Even as so many lives were being tragically lost, barely over the horizon, life goes on.

It felt as though the world, all reason, all mercy was on fire – and it was.

© Copyright 2015 Ian Bland

Also have a listen to the songs on the new album “Angel In Reverse

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