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Morning After

I stand with my father
in the tyre marks of fire trucks
looking across paddocks burnt beyond words.
Paddocks he has ploughed, raked, sewn, harvested,
walked in his head, in his dreams.
Wind-blown paddocks he has scanned into memory.
The same paddocks we have talked into arguments.


The past is scorched, but its heat
rises through my workboots.
My father shakes his head, sighs,
scuffing his boots in the ashes of a fence post,
"You wouldn't credit it."


A skinless calf hobbles from a drain,
whispering beneath tangled fencing wire
the husk of a strainer post.
The strip of bush I explored as a child
has been left in black slivers.
There is a cemetery quiet my father
won't admit. He spits, rattles change
in his pockets, as smoke climbs
off a new horizon.


Behind us a bulldozer fills a pit
with burnt cows. Their skin
has been toasted the same grey colour.
Are they Jersey, Friesian, or Hereford?
They fall from the bulldozer's bucket in clumps
ten at a time, sideways, headfirst thudding
into place amongst the flies.
              Some cows miss the hole
and land broken-necked, half-in
half-out, forcing the operator
to scoop them up and start over again.


A siren wails through charred gum trees
lining Heathmarsh Rd.
Beneath the dirt, tree roots and peat bogs
smoulder and glow. Everything
we've ever leant against
has been shelled and scattered.
We walk back to the Valiant
through paddocks without fences.
The day rests between the hands
of a melted clock, the search for stray cattle,
and back to back hits of the 60s, 70s, and 80s.