Bundeena after the fire

(For Les Bursill)

A strand of tar threads through blackened bush.
Steam snakes up to meet the rain.
Somewhere hidden here
are flying fish and low-sweeping gulls,
burnt scrub, bandicoots,
and foul-mouthed hermits.
Waterfalls splatter across the road.
Under a cliff flank
an echidna etched in ochre
is three hundred years old and fading fast –
below it, in yesterday’s dust,
are tracks, and an ant hole scratched wide open.
On the beach,
bluebottles on the wet sand
deserted by an ebb tide
are left to desiccate
just out of the ripples’ reach.
Nobody knows what else there might be –
pale unseen orchids or
snakeskins or
ships’ ribs under sandbars or
bushfire sparks or
a whale’s fluke
just offshore.
But at night, and in the early mornings,
there is only the mist, the car radio, and the black road.

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