Ash Wednesday 1983



There are no shoes, no walls or boundaries.
Hot, black feet stand equally
on the ashen face of earth,
where mountain ash last week
made worship easy. Today

spindly charcoal arms reach
from embers to a clear blue sky.
All looks well in Doncaster,
but thirty minutes north east,
a fire licks with legion tongues,

feather and fur, possession
and possessor. It mocks,
spitting fire four kilometres down wind,
random as the massacre of Hoddle Street.
There is nothing to be done but

bare the soles of feet and stand
fearful on the earth and urn,
listen to a lone, dull voice;
the cry from somewhere in hot breathless smoke.
Five persons huddle

in the front seat of a ute, disconnected
from everything that doesn't matter.
My God, this country holds the souls
of only those who can stand in ash and flood,
and who feel chaos draw the deep shared moan.

Marlene Marburg

Ash Wednesday 1983

On Ash Wednesday 1983, sixty-eight Australians died in terrible bushfires

We steer thus,
In bleak lines of silence
With eyes abashed,
Tilt our faces to austerity,
Are dusted with the death print
'Dust thou art……..'

But on this Ash Wednesday
Dare we whisper Satan's name
When words are edged with flint,
And a small, dry cough
Might prove incendiary;
When a spasm of flame
Might ignite the instant
And go wildly on the palsy of the wind,
So that a shock of parrots thunders forth,
Spewing slipstreams of fire,
A vomitus of barbary sparks;
So that our lungs are cooped with ash,
And we are stopped,
Left gesturing
In the frail Dresden of our hands.

In the aftermath of ash,
Through bleary black-fangled hills,
Shall we steer now, like rickety sheep,
Smoke expiring from our stricken backs,
In hope that the fire,
Dying to our own height
Might prove measurable
In this hushed artifice of dust.

Grant Fraser

LISTEN: Live reading by Grant Fraser

Marlene MarburgMarlene Marburg is a member of the Spirituality Team at Campion Ignatian Spirituality Centre in Kew, Victoria. She is currently engaged in doctoral research into Poetry and the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. 

Grant FraserGrant Fraser is a lawyer, poet and filmmaker. His collection of poetry Some Conclusion in the Heart was published by Black Willow Press. His film Syllable to Sound was recently shown on ABC Television. 

Topic tags: Marlene Marburg, Grant Fraser, Ash Wednesday, Black Saturday, Victorian Bushfires, marysville, kinglake



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Existing comments

When it seems there are no words to express the pain of such deep sorrow in the aftermath of these tragic fires, thank God we have our poets.
Terry fanninf | 17 February 2009

Thanks indeed.
Trish Taylor | 17 February 2009


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