Archive for January 6th, 2020

Monday, 6 January 2020

Following the Fires by Geoffrey Donald Page

Let’s not think about the dead,
the photos unreleased,

or what the constable or fireman
saw beneath a twist of iron.

Let’s think about the houses only,
that shouldn’t be so hard,

or maybe just a single house
collapsing into ash.

Let’s look into the special places,
the hardwood floor with cat in winter

following the sun,
the bedroom freshly done in yellow

waiting for the baby,
the well-scratched slab of kitchen oak

where children fifty years before
had struggled with their maths,

where once a new wife found herself
tilted back against it,

some dinner-party indiscretion,
the master bedroom with its secrets,

the picture windows full of forest
shifting in the wind.

An architect may have the plan
but it cannot be built again.

There’d be no sort of human wear,
the old bed angled roughly in

and rubbed along a wall,
the hairline crack in gyprock

that broke instead of bones,
following a late-night fracas

the neighbours must have heard
away up there beyond the creek,

half-hidden in the trees.
Consider, too, the bellied stove,

its late-night reds and yellows,
watched by two who still recall

a long, slow, soft-edged cabernet
one April night that changed their lives.

And, on a shelf, the photograph
dressed for World War Two

that no-one thought to copy.
Or send your gaze around the room

belonging to the son, aged four,
that private disarray of toys,

fled from in a minute,
not scattered through the years.

So let’s not think about the bodies
burned beyond their DNA,

beyond the shadow of their names.
Let’s think about the houses only,

or just a single home.
Consider what the pinewood, plaster,

housebricks and conceded glass
took with them through the flames.

From: Page, Geoff, “Following the Fires” in Meanjin, Vol. 69, No. 1, Autumn 2010, pp. 234-235.

Date: 2010

By: Geoffrey Donald Page ( 1940- )