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January 2014, vol 9, no 4

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Marilyn Humbert

40C Madness


Five days into summer. Westerly wind drives heat from Australia’s interior eastward. This wind collects little or no humidity as it churns across the outback and New South Wales, driving up temperatures. Sweltering Sydney-siders flock to the beaches.

After a wet winter, growth has exploded around Sydney’s National Parks and bush lands. Vegetation is crackling, tinder dry.

flies circle confused
in the heat-loaded air
first days of summer

I scrambe up the fire trail, climbing steadily from lush fragrant gums and ferns in the valley to disfigured trees: upright blackened sticks and others lying at haphazard angles. Only a few birds have returned from the untouched forest below. At the apex of the climb the trail crosses bitumen. To the left is a row of lonely chimneys and twisted corrugated iron.

the arsonist signature
charred trees
seared lives




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