Maxine Beneba Clarke

no rain in sight,

                     all hot south-westerlies




grey smoke, coiled

                      around the cowering

sunshine coast


amanda wheezed,

and sucked her ventolin



dad called out

                     we’re leaving soon,

and wet the roof again

with hose



mum said

                     the car’s all packed

                     what are we waiting for?

                     we had a plan, come on, get in

                                           let’s go!



in the end

       we left their wedding photos



packed in cardboard boxes, in the hall



when the fire came,

the four of us just legged it:


grabbed the dog,

got in the car, and drove



       dad said

                     jen, i think you might be speeding


        mum snapped back

                     well yeah, of course i am



we were lucky, we got out

and lived to tell the tale


even though we never saw

       our house again




       everything looked really different


the trees were charcoal poles,

             no birds flew by


mum cried amongst the ashes:

kicked charred spoons

         where her new countertop once lay


dad’s shoulders drooped


                     he bit his lip,

and blinked his eyes, and

                                           looked away


he said these fires,

                     they make runways

                     of the landscape scars

       we settlers made



mum snapped

                     oh, don’t start that nonsense,

        we just needed bloody rain

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on September 14, 2019 as "Rain".

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Maxine Beneba Clarke is the author of The Hate Race and Foreign Soil. She is a winner of the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Poetry.

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