Etch A Sketch

1 August 2017

I
We found it. The house, down a jagged unpaved road

the owner recently widowed coughed her warning:
The peacock comes with the house

lit the freshburn her next cigarette—floral
nighty open to a tongue of breeze.

We took it. [The house, because we were told such things could
be bought & sold. But we were untested / untried—thermite.]

Then, a frenzy of activity. Grass turned
elementAl the small electric mower, pulled through its last gasp—
a haze of rotary splutter.
There were snake eggs: a Medusa’s nest waiting for heat to burst them.

Evenings fell a swoop. Breeze waved
smoke wood tang, fire and coal. We ate from the pan,
your exclamation: This is stars’ end.

First light, the sky broke—a candy-cane swirl.

Magpies and currawongs picked over remains—
solidified pan juice, discarded rinds, pieces of gristle.

Before morning tea, the path baked
through. I lay

down, let small
ants bite
a line
of flesh.

I found you blowing flies from wet cracks—
the corners of your mouth.

We watched strawberry plants plat across wormed earth,
woke to fat caterpillars feasting on budded leaves.
Tossed song lines across the court of afternoons.

II
The fire ripped through late—no
warning. The radio’s almost packed it in, its static lost to the
howling / the furnace sky bellowed

we watched seething
flames tongues wild agape.
The flames licked and hissed and climbed—the two headed
Janus
leaving us
and the animals, panting. Everything everywhere burning.

When we returned (the trees were black-end-ash) the peacock
only came
after wrangling—all that was left was an x-ray the mackerel sky
churned to dust.

Even light had melted. Broken
its back against the flame.


Notes
An Etch A Sketch contains aluminum powder. The surface
behind the screen becomes coated when you shake it. In
the TV series Breaking Bad, Walter White uses an Etch
A Sketch to make thermite in order to blow a lock.

The symbol Al for aluminum comes from ‘alum’ which is
potassium aluminum sulfate. The name derived from the
Latin alumen, bitter salt.

A fire is made up of three principal elements: ‘fuel that burns,
oxygen that allows the combustion to occur, and heat.’ Fire
intensity is represented by units watts per metre; tens of
thousands of kilowatts of energy can be released in a bushfire.
NSW bushfires Q & A: How firefighters contain a massive
blaze
.

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