Dust Red Dawn

By | 1 May 2021

Can you convince the wind to change
direction? The Opera House dishes in their rack
are browning again. The government wants them whitewashed
by massive, shock-jock-endorsed horse-racing ads.
It’s nearly summer and November’s going loopy.

The sky turns ochre, orange to some, amid purple-greys—
depends on the screen you see things through
and whether or how you recall the dust-red dawn
of 2009 that loomed over the Blue Mountains
from the southwest like something sci-fi,

how it crept in the early hours into the city in slow motion
the way a red container ship now glides as if on ice
over choppy waters under the Harbour Bridge.
Today’s another ‘scary fire day’. People are out and amongst it,
spending everything on Xmas, dealing with the trauma

of a year’s overload. The sun’s not a sphere,
it’s a funnel that sucks the world’s energy up like a vacuum,
spits it back out in shards of light or in hard
slabs of heat the size of continents.
Wind drags dust from inland out through the heads,

Country in its teeth. When the dust-red dawn
dwarfed Sydney it was much redder than this
orange-grey haze people are dissing on the tweets
like it’s nothing, like there aren’t still tonnes
of it settling on every windowsill, millions

of airborne specks turning sinuses to rage.
As a two-year-old, Evie was afraid of specks;
couldn’t comprehend them. She used to point and scream
at any tiny fleck invading her bath-time and -space—
they were alive, could morph into other forms.

Or maybe she understands them too well, how our bodies
are always morphing. She’s been watching
Alice in Wonderland—‘a big girl now,’ not a dot
inside a tummy anymore, and difficult to allegorise,
given our background in colonial poiesis.

The sound of an invisible cannon-shot thunders
and echoes from the sandstone and concrete
beneath the bridge on the northern side of the harbour,
dragging me back to the steering wheel I’ve drifted off behind
on the southern side as I take a break from deliveries.

Twenty more bangs go off and, with each, a further
twenty echoes are delayed by what seems
two hundred years or more. Sky turns maroon.
Through the windscreen, a dirty rainbow.
On the road, red’s caked in the puddles of this morning’s

rainshower. How do I talk to my daughters
about all the tiny beliefs being part of the big ones,
about tipping points that have already been breached,
about the version of history they’ll inherit
that can’t go back to time immemorial and that’ll

probably soon completely cease reverberating
through the future’s waters? The car shakes. Wind
lifts the sedan, spinning me up to the palm tree canopies
and for a moment we’re all doing helicopters—
fronds, hair, car, heads, arms (I imagine my daughters

airborne too)—dispersing dust, trying to shake it off.
I return to land, watch the specks we picked up
get whisked over Gadigal and out to sea,
tiny flecks of red and black subsumed back in-
to the ongoing fallout and wash-up.

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