A tad better

Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne
Fitzroy Gardens, Melbourne

Reaching far and wide,
like our politicians—trees;
except, constructive.

I can’t breathe

Imagine your child saying that. Or your mother. Or the sibling you used to hate every day of your childhood. Imagine… that loved one, the one you care most about, the one who cares about you even more than their declining health, the one that stood beside you during the toughest of times, holding your hand. Imagine watching them struggle to breathe.

It’s torture, even to imagine it.

And yet, again and again, our world watches on, blind to everything but their own matters, as so many loved ones fight to breathe. 

Police kills black man, the news reads. Instantly, a nation rises, machetes and sign boards in hand, taking to the streets, furious yet cautious—standing a feet from each other with masks intact, their voices loud nevertheless. America is used to black protestors, and the rest of the world is used to dropping jaws as the massive nation that parades itself as great and democratic, brings to its knees, any violence not instigated from within its safe harbour of authority.

This week, once again, we witness the nation that can’t stop talking about itself, the nation that forever holds the top spot in global news, grapple with the hard reality of its citizens chocking in its own hypocrisy. And once again, we slap our hands on our foreheads, shaking heads, covering our mouths in horror as we watch cars running people over, rubber bullets piercing eyeballs, and Starbucks outlets swallowing flames. 

Despite all of this, though, somehow, we know that this isn’t the first or last time we’ll see devastation at such a large scale. Everywhere on this great floating earth is the same challenge as in America. In different levels under different names, yes, but there’s almost no one country that’s treating its diversity with the respect it deserves. 

After all, if there’s one thing that all of humankind does best, it’s to pretend that colonisation never happened. I mean, it’s not just the people who can’t breathe—it’s also our earth and the hundreds of species on the brink of extinction.

World today

Motors came to a grinding halt. Journeys and cruise ships became just a muse. As the earth healed and world struggled, it’s all hocus-pocus shrugged the potus.


It’s day 5 of the Writers Victoria Flash Fiction 2020 competition. Every day throughout April, they’ll share a one-word prompt challenging enthusiasts to create 30-word stories. This is mine for the prompt, hocus-pocus. Read more flash fiction on Twitter.

Unreal

Australian Parliament House

With mythical roots, 
as knight in shining armour,
pledge the powerful.

The times

When Dickens began “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”, he must’ve imagined something worse. If that’s even imaginable.

When Frost said he held with those who favoured fire as the cause of world’s end, he must’ve envisioned something more gruesome. If that’s even possible.

For over the past few months, this country has been ablaze.

When Australian winter gave way to spring, as it does every year, gently sliding away into the darkness where it hibernates until next June, summer barged in, as the uninvited plus one of your second cousin twice removed. What should’ve been the sweet celebration of blossoming season, of wattles dancing on sidewalks, of white gum trees waving as you ride past, quickly turned sour in the scorching heat. Overnight it went from whiskey weather to ice-cold rieslings, leaving no chance for temperate rosés.

Dark clouds retreated, much further than they’d ever before. Sunshine glistened on afternoon beverages, shooting hopeful rainbows through clinking glasses, as if wishing for a pot of rain at its end. Magic.

As Floriade ended on a heatwave, summer thrusted herself on stage well before spring had had a chance to take a bow. It was all so sudden. No one had the energy to mourn for spring. Half the country was on fire already.

For summer, in all her glory, with all her vitamins, had brought with her along with the cancerous touch, a flame thrower. And she didn’t hesitate to use it. Day after day, the nation awoke to news of decreasing houses, wildlife, and vegetation. Stranded on highways, truck drivers slept in their vehicles, comfortably and safely parked in traffic that remained unmoving for weeks. In their carriers, food rot and fuel sat. Full and useless.

Volunteers strode into flames, rasping, gasping, metaphorically bleeding as they hosed down beloved backyard branches—plants they’d once lovingly pruned and cared for. They didn’t care anymore. When our love burns and turns against us, hatred and distain drives us to extinguish it. It becomes a disease. When dry and angry leaves scorched their roofs, dogs, and horses, people retaliated, brandishing a gush of precious water, desperate to contain the disaster. This wasn’t a barbecue. It wasn’t as easy as turning a knob or pulling a log off. This was bush fire, and we were nature’s BBQ.

Humans ran. Birds fled. Koalas slept on, most never to wake again. Gum trees leaked as they shot up in blazes, taking with them the sweet smell of comfort, of home, of Australia. Native plants, insects, and animals watched as death leapt at them, future doomed to destination unknown.

Tourism suffered. Economy hurt. Politicians spoke.

People… rose.

Baked beans, cereal, milk, and bread; soaps, shampoo, sanitary napkins, and tooth paste; clothes, and millions in money shipped off from unharmed areas to protective shelters. Donations and fund raisers rained as people’s hearts overflowed with the moisture this land had been deprived of.

It’s the worst of our times. Also the best. I wonder if Dickens knew.